Julie and Sabra
“We had been trying to have a baby for a year and a half and we were so thrilled to become parents and welcome our precious baby into our lives,” say Julie and Sabra, two educators based in Providence. “We read everything we could get our hands on before and after the baby arrived, and researched nearly every decision we made about how to parent our child.”
But despite all their preparation, the new parents were faced with the difficult reality that even though they had been married for years, and both their names were on Oscar’s birth certificate, Julie’s status as a parent wasn’t completely secure. “In order to make sure that I would be legally recognized as Oscar’s parent, lawyers recommended to us that we pursue a second-parent adoption,” explains Julie.
Julie shares the details from the whole process: “The first step was waiting 6 months before pursuing adoption. Next, we had to hire a lawyer and our case was assigned to [the Department of Children, Youth, and Families]. I had to complete a medical exam, fingerprinting for a criminal background check, an extensive financial disclosure, three letters of recommendation, and complete a 98-question open-ended survey. Finally, a DCYF social worker came to our house to conduct a home visit to determine my fitness as a parent.”
Julie wasn’t alone in the emotional turmoil – Sabra and Oscar experienced it at her side. “Having a social worker in our home was nerve-wracking,” Sabra says of the visit. “Even though we believed we were good parents… we were still a same-sex couple and wondered if there was a chance that the social worker might deem two women not good enough to be parents. We felt incredibly vulnerable during that visit.”
Despite the turbulent beginnings of starting their family, there is so much to celebrate. Oscar just turned two years old. He’s “silly, playful, talking up a storm with the cutest little voice and ways of pronouncing words,” Sabra says of her son. “He gets very excited about garbage day, because he likes to watch the truck pick up the trash. He also loves running and regularly runs races with himself in the living room.”
After everything that they’ve been through, Sabra and Julie have found a routine in their full, busy lives. “Julie and I are both professors, which gives us the flexibility to each work from home a couple days a week.” One parent working at home gets Oscar ready for the day, makes his lunch and snack, and does daycare drop-off and pickup, while the other parent leaves early and returns later. “Then we all meet up at home in the evening to feed Oscar dinner and do his nighttime routine (bath, nursing, brushing teeth, stories). The weekends are the best because the three of us can be together and have time to play and not feel rushed.”
Julie and Sabra were able to get through the process to become a legally recognized family, but at the cost of becoming painfully aware of how much the law needs to change. “More and more same-sex parents are having children and need a path to fully protect their families,” explains Sabra. “This process needs to be streamlined in RI so that it is not an undue burden on families like ours.”