Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Arizona couple and their twelve children get seven-page spread in Phoenix newspaper

This is a story that must be read, about Roger and Steven Ham, a gay male couple in Arizona (Roger changed his last name to Steven's in 2007, and all the children have the same last name), and their 12 adopted children. That's right, 12. First there was one child, who missed his four younger siblings. The five had been split into three foster homes when they were taken from their mother. Sibling groups are almost impossible to place in foster homes or with adoptive parents. Roger and Steven took all five. Then they took the children's 11 year old cousin. Then, as foster parents, they took any child the caseworker placed in their home (42 over 10 years -- some arriving with no notice), and eventually they adopted six more children, some with special needs. Roger is the youngest of 12 siblings; Steven the youngest of 14.

The Arizona Republic ran a seven-page spread about the family this past Sunday. I'm sure I have never read a more glowing review of foster/adoptive parents. Even Gov. Jan Brewer thought they were outstanding when she signed an award they received from the Arizona Association for Foster and Adoptive Parents in 2009. The award commended them for their secure and loving home, and for working so hard to keep siblings together.

But that didn't stop Brewer from signing into law last month a preference for placing children with married parents, a topic I posted about here.

The article points out that in Arizona only one of the men can be the children's legal parent. That's Steven. Two of the twelve were adopted from the Washington state foster care system, and both men are legal parents of those two. Roger is a school bus driver and the family's primary breadwinner. If he dies or becomes disabled while the children are minors, only the two who are legally his will get Social Security child benefits. Although the couple has signed all the legal documents they could, the lack of legal parentage leaves the children vulnerable in numerous situations. Nothing makes less sense.

I have to commend the Arizona Republic for running this story and giving it prominence. If it doesn't change some hearts and minds, I'd be surprised. I'll also be surprised if you can get through the whole article without tears in your eyes.

No comments: