Australian Gay Dad Shares Foster to Adoption Story
Actor Matt Young and his husband Peter are believed to be the first non-biological same-sex male parents to adopt children in the state of New South Wales, Australia. In this guest post, Matt shares with us his foster-to-adopt story.
About 5 years into our relationship, my partner and I started thinking about becoming parents. We are both younger siblings from big Catholic families, and one of the things that initially attracted us to each other was the sharing of values. So it should come as no surprise that in late 2005 during Australian Foster Care Week we both read, and connected with an article about foster to adoption parenting.
We initially attended a week-long training session to assess whether foster care was right for us, and then progressed into the beginning of the formal phase of becoming foster carers. One of the stories in this initial week was from a straight woman living in a married relationship with her own children, who became a long term foster carer for a child, whom she and her husband eventually adopted. This made sense to both of us.
After about nine months of training, reports and evaluations through the state based out-of-home care organization in New South Wales, at the time known as the Department of Community Services (DOCS – now named FACS), we were approved to be foster carers. In May 2007, our son Michael arrived, and five weeks later he was joined by his biological little brother Graham. They were seven and five years old.
For the first five months or so, we were awaiting the decision of the family court whether the children would stay with us as their long term carers. For reasons I wish to keep private, so as not to violate the trust between the birth family and ours, a decision was finally made that the best thing for the mental well being and safety of the children was to be placed into permanent care, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. We settled into our new arrangement, as long term carers with the hope of eventually adopting our children.
In early September 2010, New South Wales Parliament passed the Adoption Amendment, allowing same sex couples the same adoption rights that had previously been afforded to individual adopters and opposite sex couples. After consultation with the boys, their birth family and kin, a reissuing of an application to adjust to the change in the law, and more interviews, reports and recommendations, we officially became adoptive parents of our children in February 2012.
Coincidentally, I was performing in the Australian tour of Annie, in which in the final scene Annie agrees to be adopted by Daddy Warbucks. Let’s just say, I had a bit of a happy cry at the end of the show that evening.
The process was complicated, and took some time. The boys’ birth grandmother advocated for the adoption, and often spoke on behalf of the birth parents. As far as we know there was no concern over the boys being placed with a same-sex couple from the birth family. The boys being adopted into a safe and supportive home was the priority. In adult life, the boys navigate the relationships with their birth family, and we encourage them to reach out, if they feel safe to do so, at birthdays and Christmas. Once a year, I send a picture of the boys to their birth grandmother via Facebook.
As we lived in inner city Sydney, we met the Lord Mayor Clover Moore, who introduced the adoption amendment to Parliament, on several occasions, and she would often refer to us as her “first couple” leading us to believe that we were the first non-biological male same sex couple to adopt children in New South Wales.
Further evidence of this belief was presented with our interaction with the Office of Birth Deaths and Marriages when the boys’ birth certificates were amended, to match their legal status as adopted children. A birth certificate is a legal document documenting the legal relationship between adopted children and their adoptive parents. The amended document removes the name of the birth parents, and replaces them with the names of the adoptive parents.
When we were issued with the new birth certificates, at the top of the certificate my partner and I were named as parent one and parent two. However, at the bottom of the document, under the category of Informants, I was listed as the father and my partner was listed as the mother. When we pointed out this error, we were told we needed to return in two days for the amended document, as there was not a template in place to record us both as the father.
As of 2020, same sex adoptive parents can now request an Integrated Birth Certificate that lists the child’s name at birth, and the child’s name after adoption, as well as the mother and father’s name at birth, and the parents’ names after adoption.
Our children are now adults, aged 20 and 23, and still live in our family home.
Matt Young is a freelance actor/writer best known as Graham’s Dad in the 2015 Australian documentary Gayby Baby, which tells the story of four Australian kids being brought up by same-sex parents.
A former Broadway dancer, Matt traveled the world in Broadway tours of shows including A Chorus Line and On the Town, before joining the original Australian cast of The Producers. He has portrayed many gay men on stage and screen, including Bruno in the Australian premiere of Guillem Clua’s Smiley, Sarge/Scarlett in Yank! and Jack Cole in Good-bye Miss Monroe. He will next be seen as Joey in the Aussie indie feature Heart of the Man.