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Two Dads, Twelve Kids in Arizona

Jim Burroway

May 4th, 2011

The Ham family, clockwise from bottom center: "Papa" Roger, Cooper, "Daddy" Steven holding Olivia, Jackson, Michael, Madison, Vanessa, Marcus, Isabel, Logan, Elizabeth, Andrew and Ambrose. (Michael Chow/Arizona Republic)

The Arizona Republic on Monday profiled the family of Steven and Roger Ham, the two gay dads who are the fathers of twelve children who were adopted from foster care in Arizona, where two men can’t marry or adopt children together. Last month, Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law a bill that gives preferential treatment to married couples in state and private adoptions. Even before that law went into effect, Steven and Roger’s quest to bring these children into their home wasn’t an easy one.

“We had to fight to get them,” Roger says. “We had to fight to get them all,” Steven says.

They started out only wanting one child, but when they saw that there were so many kids in the foster care system needing a home — there are 10,514 children in the state’s care presently — they couldn’t stop at one. And besides, their first adopted child, Michael, had four younger brothers and sisters in foster care that he endlessly worried about. Through much legal wrangling, they finally reunited the children in 2004.

“I immediately fell in love with them,” says Heather Shew-Plummer, the caseworker at Aid to the Adoption of Special Kids in Phoenix who handled the Hams’ first nine adoptions. Up to that point, she had worked with 10 or so same-sex couples.

Shew-Plummer felt Steven and Roger were ideal prospective parents – patient, loving, fun and ceaseless advocates for the kids who would come into their care. But she worried they might face extra obstacles in adopting because they were gay.

“They never tried to hide it, but they never made a big deal out of it, either,” Shew-Plummer says. “They didn’t want to change the world. They just wanted to raise their kids.”

The Hams also served as foster parents for 42 children over ten years. Some stayed for just a few days, while others stayed for months.

Two of the Ham’s children were adopted in Washington state, which allows both parents’ names to appear on the birth certificates. The ten adopted in Arizona are legally Steven’s, because Arizona does not allow same-sex couples to adopt, nor does it allow second-parent adoptions. To cover the legal gaps, the couple have drawn up medical powers of attorney and guardianship papers. But even with that, the ten children adopted in Arizona are not entitled to health and Social Security benefits, inheritance rights or, if the parents were to split up, child support from Roger.

And yet the obstacles seem minor compared to the Ham’s determination to care for the children who had such great needs. But it’s not all about the needs. It’s also about the love and support, which is abundant in the Ham household. Sen. Rick Santorum this week denounced adoption and foster parenting by gay couples, saying adoption was a privilege and not a right. The thing is though, I suspect the Hams would agree: it is an enormous privilege, a blessing even. And one that all children deserve, regardless of how their parents are configured.

Comments

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Karen Barr
May 4th, 2011 | LINK

This is a beautiful story. Thanks.

Désirée
May 4th, 2011 | LINK

all 12 kids are gay?

Jim Burroway
May 4th, 2011 | LINK

Badly edited headline fixed

Stephen
May 4th, 2011 | LINK

What a wonderful story. Thanks so much for this link.

Regan DuCasse
May 4th, 2011 | LINK

Hey Jan Brewer you bitch, how many children have YOU adopted?!

And are these children any LESS beautiful and loved with these two dads? The bio units didn’t step up and neither did you.
Stand the hell down.

Steve Masters
May 4th, 2011 | LINK

When is someone going to go to court and try to overturn these laws on behalf of the kids?

These children do not have the same benefits and security as the children in homes headed by straight couples. At best, their parents have to pay thousands of dollars to approximate what other kids have simply because their parents can marry but its still not the same as in this case. Not to mention higher taxes their parents pay because they can’t file jointly. This is money that could be used for clothes, college, etc.

I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that a case where kids like this are the plaintiffs, as opposed to the parents, may be successful in overturning some bad laws as well as create public awareness as to why anti-marriage laws are bad for families. It might garner more public support too since even people that don’t like gay adults still don’t want to hurt kids.

Sean Santos
May 4th, 2011 | LINK

Particularly with respect to second-parent adoption, you have to wonder how Santorum’s argument makes any sense at all when applied to children that are already being raised by same-sex parents. Is it a “privilege” to have one of your loving parents be recognized as such, or do kids instead have a right to the support of both parents?

Mihangel apYrs
May 4th, 2011 | LINK

a badly needed smile

Regan DuCasse
May 4th, 2011 | LINK

Excellent point, Steve Masters! But amazingly, the harshest judgment still seems to favor that despite these two dads, AND dads trying to keep sibling sets all together, these men aren’t doing these children any good, or as good as a mom and dad.
However unavailable or unwilling that mom and dad are.

Yes, you would think that cooler heads wouldn’t WANT to hurt kids.
But they DO want to hurt the kids of gay parents.

Elizabeth
May 4th, 2011 | LINK

I love this story, and I love that family. Thank you so much.

Elizabeth
May 4th, 2011 | LINK

Oh, and Steve Masters, I think you are right. I wish we could ask the people who count the same question.

John B.
May 4th, 2011 | LINK

Yes, adoption is a privilege. But popping out more babies than you can, or will, or want to, take care of is apparently a RIGHT. So somebody needs to tell Mr. Santorum that if all those heterosexuals would just stop giving children up for adoption, abandoning them, or neglecting or abusing them to the point they are taken away by the state, there would be a whole lot fewer kids for gay folk to foster or adopt, and a whole lot less need for somebody to help pick up some of the slack.

ken
May 6th, 2011 | LINK

I dare Santorum to tell kids stuck in the foster care system they don’t have the “right” to be adopted.

Does anyone know if there has ever been a lawsuit, by kids who age-out of the system, against states that have passed such laws?

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