Vicko (Vic) Tellez from New York and husband Kevin adopted daughter Chloe when she was 4 days old. In this article, Vic shares his story and explains the difference between Foster Care and Adoption. Vic also speaks about the decision to quit his job and become a stay-at-home dad, and about facing the fear of a baby being taken away by its biological family.
“Before the adoption, our main concern was always the idea of having a family member step forward and that the baby placed with us will be removed,” Vic reveals. “The agency does not know the relatives or family situation, so it’s always a possibility, which creates a fragile situation. It’s still extremely concerning to know the possibility of having this kid removed from your care exists.”
It’s important to make the terminology very clear: Foster Care is handled by the government, Vic explains, and the initial goal is always reunification with the biological family. “There are several cases where the kids will not be reunified with the bio families due to external situations, like incarceration, health condition, etc, and those cases are considered pre adoptive,” Vic explains. “You will still have to go through the court process of petition for custody from the state as ACS (Administration for Child Services) takes custody in the interim the child is placed with either the bio family or the adoptive family. Laws vary depending each state but it can be lengthy and exhaustive.”
Adoption, however, is more common and while there is definitely a risk of the adoption not being completed, it’s only in the beginning. “I am not so familiar with the laws for adoption but I believe there are states that will allow the birth mother to change decision up to 48 hours to a week,” Vic says. “Once that period has happened, the adoption goes through and parents can be a little relieved, where in foster care you are always questioning if there is someone who is going to take your baby away, a new family member, etc. “
Knowing all the risks, the two decided to go ahead with Foster Care. “We were thinking on how many kids were already in immediate need of help, but while doing our paperwork we always were honest and specified we wanted to be pre adoptive.”
Unfortunately, Vic and Kevin’s biggest fear, that someone would take the baby away, came to life as a biological aunt claimed she could raise the baby herself, a week after they had received their baby. “It was truly devastating. I am thankful enough to never have experienced the death of a kid, but I felt the same sense of lost and frustration and impotence of not being able to do anything,” he says. “When we took the first baby, we didn’t know much about that case and again since we thought we were being picky, we really thought we should take the baby that was 3 months old. Everything happened so fast, as the foster agency called to let us know an aunt was a viable resource and that they will take the baby away, they said they had a newborn that was 4 days old and we did our homework and found as much information as possible to make sure the baby we were going to take, had a better chance of staying with us in the future.”
The foster care system has lots of disadvantages and leaves little to no ability to fight or to have a voice. “We discovered there is a lot of bureaucracy and there is no real interest on the well being of the child or permanency. Wanting to make sure our daughter was represented to the best of our abilities, we decided to hire a lawyer to explain us the process and make sure we were looking at things from an objective perspective.”
With Chloe, the second baby who became their legally adopted daughter, the two were much more cautious: “From the hospital she was placed into our home. We were very specific as to our preferences, almost too picky, for a lack of a better word. We wanted a girl, 0 – 3 months, no siblings (as we only had space for one), pre adoptive.”
“After getting the baby placed with us and knowing a little bit more about the family situation and permanency of the child with us, my partner and I decided to take six months of family leave, three months each, and eventually, I quit my job and became a full time primary care giver. It was definitely scary and it took the first year to fully adjust, but I see back to our decision and feel happy that we had the opportunity and the economical resources to do it.”
Vic’s decision to quit his job was not exceptional; many fathers decide to become the primary care givers and quit their jobs to become stay-at-home dads. Nevertheless, this decision is never easy. “It was scary in the sense that I had never been without a job or transitioning one single day in my life up to that point,” Vic says. “I was scared that going back to find a job wasn’t going to be as easy and regardless of my experience, It was going to be challenging adapting to having a baby and all different schedules/responsibilities work out. I was working in the government in Mexico and then with a market research company that led to my most recent job up to the adoption in an importer and distributor of Wines and Spirits. I was able to get promoted from the entry level position to a high manager one. I was always the type of person who will get to work one hour before and stay long hours to complete additional projects, and while I had great credentials, the fact of getting out of my comfort zone was terrifying. “
How was the adjustment period for you? Did you ever had a “what am I doing” moment?
“In the beginning I had no idea what I was doing. I know lots of people said that instincts will kick in, in my case it took about 6 months. I was scared of going outside on the street with my baby, because what if something happened to her? what if I needed to change her diaper, what if I needed to feed her. I had no guidance as my parents and my husband’s parents passed away. We had no relatives or family close to NY, so it took about 3 more months to figure it out and to start making friends and organizing playdates. I would learn from the other moms and see how they did it. Lots of them were very supportive and always offered a hand when in need. I consider them my best friends and our kids still have play dates together. Just as an there is light at the end of the tunnel moment, I was able to get the hang of it and by the first year I was a pro. Eventually Chloe turned 2 and started school, which was great relief for me, to have a break and I found a perfect part time job as the operations manager for a non profit in Manhattan. I am still with her 2 days a week and she goes to school 3 days. I am also looking to pursue an MBA degree once she is 5 days a week so there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel.”
What parenting advice do you have to give to other gay dads?
“The best advice that I will give prospective parents or already parents is to take it one day at the time. Not all is beautiful and amazing. There are good days and bad days. Just take a deep breath and remember to give yourself a break and don’t judge yourself or your partner too hard. There is beauty in recognizing that we are humans and we all make mistakes. Learn from them and love like there is no tomorrow.”