In the late 1990s, Monsen and Justin adopted two young brothers, Alex and Patrick. Alex was a kindergartener at Justin's school, “He was having some issues and my office manager reached out to his social worker because he was coming to school without a jacket, or he’d complain that his feet hurt because his shoes were too small or too tight.” The social worker informed the school that they were looking for an adoptive family for the young boy if anyone was willing to open their home. When Justin heard the news he spoke with his partner - now husband - Monsen. Their next step was to call the social worker to find out if they processed gay/lesbian adoptions. “As you can imagine, when the principal of a school calls to express interest in adoption, the social worker was very excited and eager to share with me.
She was talking very quickly and she kept saying “Well when I meet with you and your wife…” and finally she took a pause and I said ‘I need to ask you something’. I told her ‘I don’t have a wife I have a male partner’ and she said ‘Oh, we do gay and lesbian adoptions all the time!’”
Justin and Monsen were thrilled when they were approved to start the adoption process with Alex. Almost immediately they discovered Alex had a 3-year-old biological brother, Patrick, who lived in the same foster home and was also in need of an adoptive family. Monsen and Justin were very open to the idea of adopting the brothers, but both boys had special needs and had been through trauma and the agency said it wouldn’t be likely that they could adopt the boys together. Justin and Monsen were dedicated to providing the boys with the best life possible and this included keeping them in the same home. A few months into the process they were approved to adopt both boys! They started the adoption process in February and by October they were legally a family!
Often times potential fost/adopt parents hear “special needs” and “trauma” and become discouraged from moving forward. Special needs in the foster community is a broad term that includes age, prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol, disabilities, the risk for developing a disability in the future, and more. This includes ADD and PTSD. Almost every child in foster care has experienced trauma and trauma increases the risk of developing a disability whether it’s learning, emotional, behavioral or physical. Many children in foster care come from unstable, neglectful homes and fall behind in school or don’t meet their milestones. This also increases the possibility of becoming a child with special needs. But trauma and learning disabilities do not determine potential.
Justin and Monsen adopted two wonderful boys who were labeled ‘special needs’, and through a balance of mental health doctors, physical doctors, familial support, and determination they have grown into wonderful successful contributing members of society. Justin offers advice to parents and potential parents who are considering fostering and adopting children with special needs. “There are a lot of resources available to support you. Understand that every child is going to have a different pathway, it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable! It’s just a matter of equipping them with the tools and resources as best you can to help them be healthy and happy.”
There are more than 55,000 children in foster care in California alone. These children need safe, stable homes while they wait to be reunified with their families or adopted into new ones. If you’re interested in caring for a child in foster care reach out to us at 1-800-4-FOSTER or firstname.lastname@example.org. We also invite you to attend our bi-monthly Foster Parent Information Sessions. You’ll have the opportunity to speak with our fost/adopt expert in a casual, conversational setting as she shares insights and answers all questions!