In my last post, I commented that “Mom, dad, 2.5 kids and a dog doesn’t exist anymore.” This week I ran across a story on CNN.com that highlights a family bonded by love, not genetics.
John, now 24, had been in foster care since he was 7 years old. He bounced from family to family, neglected and abused. As he approached high school, his chances of being adopted grew miniscule–only about 7%, according to a Department of Health and Human Services Report. John’s social services file labeled him “unadoptable.”
John aged out of California’s foster care system without having been adopted. At age 21, he was living with a friend next door to a gay couple, Tim Ferraro and Mark Hauck. They watched the young man struggle to hold a job, buy groceries, pay for health care. They began helping with extra groceries, dinner invitations, and emotional support. They had no children of their own, and began treating John as their son. Eventually they decided to formalize the bond and adopt John, even though he was 23 years old. This December, John, Tim and Mark celebrated their first year as a family.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of a “chosen family.” We figure that we can’t do anything about our birth families, but when we’re adults we can choose the people with whom we bond and spend most of our time. Few people take the concept so far as to formally adopt other adults into our lives.
I suspect that many people reading John’s story ask, “Why bother?” After all, you can make a will to give money and property to those you love, even if they’re not related to you. And you can simply choose to spend time with your chosen family without going through the legal process of an adoption.
Of course, there are legal reasons to formalize relationships: the ability to inherit if a party dies intestate and unfettered hospital access if a party is ill, among others. But I suspect that in John’s case, the main reason is emotional. Everybody needs to feel that they belong. Everybody needs to know they are loved and supported. Quite simply, everybody needs the chance to have a family. I’m happy to report that John now has one.