Editors' Note: Guest blogger Martin Gill and his partner have been raising two foster children in Florida since December 2004. When a judge terminated the parental rights of the boys' biological parents in 2006, Martin moved to adopt them. While the state of Florida allows gay people to be foster parents, adoption by gay people has been banned for over two decades. So that he could adopt the boys, he was represented by the ACLU in a challenge to the constitutionality of the gay adoption ban. On November 25, a juvenile court judge granted Martin's adoption request, striking down the ban on gay adoptions in Florida.
I guess we've always been big on celebrating Christmas. Two weeks before Christmas in 2004, we got a call from the Department of Children and Families. They asked us to take in two more foster kids. I said no, as we were planning to move to Georgia, and I didn't want to take in kids if they'd have to be uprooted again because of our move.
The social worker said they just needed a place for about a month, as a family member had agreed to take them, but first had to go through an approval process. I still said no. She said we were the only home in the agency with any space left. Then she said, "I bet you could give them a really nice Christmas."
I knew she was right; we could give them a great Christmas. The story of Joseph and Mary being turned away from the inn flashed through my mind. For us, Christmas had never been a time to turn away those in need and I really hated the thought that these two might have to spend Christmas in a shelter.
"Okay, we'll take them--but only if they're temporary." I said, thinking of the house we had just bought in Georgia.
They arrived two hours later, with nothing more than the clothes on their backs--even those clothes were dirty, tattered and didn't fit.
On Christmas day, there were 20 people over for dinner. By that evening, they had filled the kids' closet and their dressers with new clothes. The playpen, which we made into a makeshift toy box, was now overflowing with new toys. It made no difference that the case worker had said their placement was for only one month--they couldn't have been treated any more like family had they been our biological kids.
To that end I am grateful for our generous family and friends, who have always been supportive of our decision to foster and more recently to adopt. And in return, our friends know they never have to spend Christmas alone. They can always come spend it with us and the kids.
What was supposed to be a temporary placement in 2004 is now a big part of what we call our family. Because of these boys, we sold the house in Georgia and made the choice to stay here in Miami. With the adoption approved, we have so much to be thankful for this Christmas. We'll be celebrating it right here at home with family and friends. It will be our fifth big Christmas with these two boys we now call our sons.
In this year of market melt-downs and layoffs, we have decided to put an emphasis on helping others in need. We are volunteering this year with Angels Everywhere (a part of our church, Unity on the Bay). While people are often generous with donations for the little kids, teenagers often come to toy giveaways and go home empty handed (or get toys intended for much younger kids). So my partner has been working diligently with our foster agency to get some gifts especially for the teens there. Our three kids will be there helping to give out gifts, in hopes that they too can learn the joy of giving.
And isn't that the reason for the season?