Toledo native pens book on gay adoption experienceWritten by Jay Hathaway | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A Toledo native recently released a book about his experiences as a gay man starting a family through adoption.
Tom Oakley, along with his husband Tod McMillen (the two have since legally changed their last names to McMillen-Oakley), decided in 2006 they wanted to start a family together. Years later, after two successful, yet tedious adoptions, Oakley wrote “Jesus has Two Daddies” to offer others insight and advice to others.
“When my partner and I first started looking into [adoption], there were very few books for men wanting to start a family,” Oakley said. “There were quite a few books geared toward lesbian couples or single females using insemination, but for two guys wanting to adopt, there was very little.”
One event that sparked Oakley’s decision to write a book came when he was asked to speak on the gay parent adoption process to a panel of graduate students at the University of Michigan, shortly after his adopted daughter was born.
“I had a big outline in front of me,” Oakley said. “During one of the breaks, a student came up to me and said I should write a book. I said, ‘I have an 8-month-old daughter. I don’t have time to write a book!’ The instructor took a pen out of her mouth and tapped on my outline, and she said, ‘There’s your book right there. Just fill in the blanks.’”
Oakley started writing the book in 2006, and it went to press last December. More than 100 copies sold initially, but some issues with the publishing company forced Oakley to take matters into his own hands and re-publish the book.
Though the writing and publishing process has been tedious, Oakley said it pales in comparison to the adoption experiences described in the book.
When Oakley and McMillan decided to adopt, they attended a seminar in Indiana looking for an adoption agency.
“We were told as a gay male couple that we would be probably be the last choice,” Oakley said. “We were told it would be two to five years before we would find someone to place a child with us.”
Trying not to be discouraged, the couple pressed on and eventually found an adoption agency. However, while advertising themselves as parents-to-be, Oakley and McMillan said they had to be aware of those trying to take advantage of them.
“We were contacted a couple of times by people that were trying to get our money,” Oakley said. “One mother asked for a new apartment, tuition, clothes and so forth for her daughter, and it was like ‘The Price is Right,’ with the little ticker going up at the bottom of the screen. Our lawyer would not deal with anybody until a doctor’s pregnancy test was done. The family wouldn’t meet with our lawyer or the doctor; they just wanted our check in the mail.”
After debating with the mother and daughter about meeting the requirements before being paid, the mother suddenly called to inform Oakley that the baby had died, which he believes was untrue.
“We ended up working with them for about three weeks. Luckily, the only thing we were out on it was buying dinner when we met with them,” he said.
Later that year, Oakley and McMillen were contacted by a young girl in Toledo who had been raised by two women. She had received their adoption profile, and saw an opportunity to meet several preferences.
“She knew she wanted to have an open adoption, which is what we did,” Oakley said “We still have contact with her, even though she’s moved out of the state. She wanted to be the only mom, so she knew that if she picked a male couple, that would be the case — pretty sharp thinking for a 15-year-old, if you ask me.”
When their daughter was born, Oakley and McMillen realized they had beaten the odds, and adopted a child less than a year after their search began.
“Truly, it was nine months from us getting started and getting the license and being approved, until we were there at St. Anne’s cutting the umbilical cord in the delivery room,” Oakley said.
The new family stayed with Oakley’s parents in Perrysburg until the interstate adoption was finalized. His mother is a retired OB/GYN nurse, which he said came in handy during the first few days of their daughter’s life.
“It was nice to have a baby nurse on call 24/7,” he said.
The couple adopted another child, a boy, in 2009, through foster care.
“His parents made some bad choices, and he was taken away,” Oakley said. “He was with a foster family for a few weeks until he came to live with us at 14 months. He was considered a high-risk adoption because he was at that critical stage for bonding, so they really wanted to get him into a permanent home very quickly. The minister of the church we were going to at the time knew a social worker who put out the feelers for a couple who wanted to adopt a baby. The minister asked us, and we began the process.”
Citing television shows like “Modern Family” and “The New Normal,” which feature gay couples as main characters, Oakley reflected on how attitudes have changed during the past few years in terms of accepted family dynamics.
“It’s not shocking anymore,” he said.
As advice to prospective adopters, Oakley listed two critical requirements.
“First, you have to have a lot of money because the lawyer fees can be outrageous,” he said. “It is important be secure with your partner because the process can be really grueling. I know people who have not made it out of the process as couples. It’s a commitment and it’s a commitment that we made to the child.
“You’ve got to put your big boy pants on when you do this.”
Oakley and McMillen now live in Jackson, Mich., and write about their family adventures on Tom’s blog, www.jesushas2daddies.com.