Without the state of New Jersey and its policies, Jason Becton and Patrick Evans’ family would be incomplete.
That’s not an exaggeration; it’s a fact.
The Jersey City couple had talked about having children before they got married. It was a discussion that continued to come up with regularity even after the couple was married, especially as their friends, both straight and gay, began to start families.
“We both knew we wanted to have children,” Becton said. “Adoption felt more natural than surrogacy for us. It just seemed like the best option.”
But it wasn’t an option, at least not where they were intending on moving.
The couple, married in Connecticut on April 2009, was planning on relocating to Virginia, where Evans’ family hailed from. The adoption laws there were different.
“We knew coming here we wouldn’t be able to adopt,” Becton said. “We wanted to make sure we could adopt in NJ.”
So Becton and his husband began the process of their adoption story, going through Just Babies, a private recruiting and training center for foster families that has since been defunded by the state. It was there they met Jennifer Martelli, a child specific recruiter for Adoption Operations, who changed their lives.
“She’s just amazing,” Becton said.
Nine months after starting the program, Becton got a call from Martelli about a five-day old baby girl named Halo who was alone in the hospital, abandoned by her mother. Halo, whose name would be changed to Marian, was born with drugs in her system.
“She was so small,” Becton said. “When I went to visit Marian in the hospital, it was amazing. I couldn’t believe this. “
Marian was in the hospital for three weeks as she went through a withdrawal period due to her mother using drugs while she was pregnant.
“She was healthy,” Becton said. “We were trained enough to know not to fear. We were anxious to get her home, but we weren’t worried.”
Becton said when they took Marian home, they knew the chances for adoption were in their favor. They also knew that there were no sure things about the process so when her birth mother returned to the picture four months later, they tried to remain calm and patient.
“There’s always a chance that the child will be taken away from you,” Becton said. “It’s always scary.”
Becton said workers from the Division of Child Protection and Permanency’s Monmouth County Local Office were instrumental in helping them through that “scary” period.
“We had monthly visits from the Monmouth Office,” Becton said. “They were all really great. It didn’t feel like someone coming over to watch over you. It felt like a friend coming to visit.”
When Marian was 14 months, her biological parents’ rights were officially terminated. Then, on September 19, 2012, she was officially adopted by Becton and Evans.
“It was amazing,” Becton said. “We had friends and family come with us to the courthouse. It was a really good day.”
But Becton and Evans’ family wasn’t complete until Marian was joined with a new sister, Elizabeth, from a private adoption through an attorney. Elizabeth, or Betty as she’s known to her family, was also born with drugs in her system.
But after taking care of Marian, Becton and Evans were well-equipped and without fear in taking care of Betty.
“It’s kind of amazing,” Becton said. “It’s amazing how fortunate we are. We have two healthy daughters.”
With their family complete, Becton and Evans moved to Charlottesville, Virginia on June 3rd. It’s there Becton and Evans continue to raise their daughters, and like all other parents, deal with the ups and downs of child raising.
“They can lift your spirit,” Becton said. “They can totally make your day or they can totally ruin it, depending on their mood.”
Although Virginia state law doesn’t recognize Becton and Evans’ marriage and single parent adoption would have been impossible there, Becton said he hasn’t come across any overt prejudice or homophobia in his day-to-day interactions. He knows it exists, but he said he’s been lucky.
“I don’t think our love for our children is any different than any other family,” Becton said.
As Becton surveys his life, his friends and most importantly his family, he can’t help but be in awe of how it all turned out. For that, he said, he could not be more grateful.
“It’s amazing sometimes to think when I was growing, to fantasize about living a life open and honest and being true to yourself,” Becton said. “I never thought it’d be quite as comfortable as it was for us. Not that there haven’t been struggles. But we’ve been lucky.”
Lloyd Nelson is the Digital Media Manager of Foster and Adoptive Family Services. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.