This Family Defines Welcoming

All of the sadness you experience when they leave is more than made up for by the ones who stay and the ones who go home and thrive because of your influence.”

Chris and Alan had always dreamed of starting a family, and they wanted to provide a safe home environment for children who needed it.

The couple married in 2009 and while living outside of Iowa, they planned to become licensed foster and adoptive parents. But before same-sex marriage had become legal federally, they were told they could be licensed but would not have kids sent to their home.

The response was frustrating for Chris and Alan but in 2014, after moving back to Iowa, they decided to give it another try. The couple became licensed to foster and adopt in October 2015.

“We didn’t want not having biological kids to stop us,” Chris says. “We’d considered adoption and thought, what about foster care? We can adopt kids needing a forever home through foster care and give other kids temporary homes.”

Since becoming licensed, the couple has adopted four children – Harley, Dashawn, Samuel, and Michael. They recently celebrated Michael’s adoption. In addition, they have provided foster care for 15 children. Photos of each child hang on the wall in their home, and Chris says it’s a way he and Alan can remember them and introduce them to their forever children.

Over the years, Chris says the family has specialized in caring for kids that have struggled to thrive in other homes. The children and teens entering foster care in Iowa come from a range of backgrounds and lived experiences, and Chris and Alan have prioritized creating a diverse family to meet the needs of the kids entering their care.

“It’s very hard to go into foster care to begin with, but being the only black kid or the only LGBTQ kid – whatever makes them stand out – in the household feels weird, especially if it’s the exact same makeup in every home,” Chris says. “But we understand discrimination and fear and standing out.”

Chris and Alan have also strived to maintain important birth family connections for each child in their home, whenever safely possible. When Dashawn was adopted, they learned that his brother was adopted by another nearby family. Now, they get together a few times a year to celebrate birthdays and keep in contact, and the brothers talk on the phone every week.

The need for more foster and adoptive families continues across Iowa. Chris says he wishes more people knew that it doesn’t take a superhero to become a licensed parent. It takes “patience, love, and lots of patience.”

“It’s going to make you sad when the kids leave,” Chris says. “But all of the sadness you experience when they leave is more than made up for by the ones who stay and the ones who go home and thrive because of your influence.”

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