If it was up to Chad, he'd have a cool dad name like “Daddy C” or “Poppy.”
As it is, he'll settle for “Daddy.”
His partner, Eric, is simply “Dad.”
For the past year, Eric and Chad have been raising three adopted siblings in their northwest Oklahoma City home. They did not want their last names used for this story.
“I think it's the same as everybody else,” Eric said of parenthood. “We're two people trying to raise three kids, dealing with the same things you have to deal with on a day-to-day basis: schedules, school things, getting the kids to bed, brushing their teeth, eating your dinner, doing homework. It's the same stuff that you would encounter with anybody.”
Chad, Eric and their three children, ages 5, 7 and 10, are among a small but growing minority of Oklahoma families. About 1,060 households of gay men were raising children in Oklahoma, according to U.S. Census figures released last week. That compared to more than 1,840 lesbian-couple households raising children in the state.
Chad, 38, and Eric, 35, first met more than six years ago. Eric, an Oklahoma native, is an IT engineer. Chad, who grew up in Tennessee, is a hairstylist.
“We were together for a while, and we wanted to make our relationship complete as a family,” Chad said. “We can't do it with marriage, so we wanted to be more of a combined family.”
Beginning the process
The couple first started talking about the possibility of adoption in 2008. They weren't sure where to start but began researching adoption online and began filling out forms. At the time, Chad and Eric were living in an older, urban neighborhood near downtown in the Oklahoma City school district.
“When we started thinking about having kids, we automatically decided to move to a community that had a better school district,” Chad said.
Chad wanted to stay in the city, but Eric wanted a little more rural feel.
They compromised and moved into a two-story house with a large backyard on a dead-end street in Oklahoma City. The house is near a park and is in a large metro school district.
With the move over, the next few years involved a flurry of forms, background checks and home studies by the state Department of Human Services.
“They don't allow any non-married couples — whether they're same-sex or heterosexual — to adopt kids together,” Eric said. “It has to be one (adult) or the other. The state doesn't allow us to do it together. But case workers understand that two parents, regardless of their orientation, can provide good, loving homes.”
In spring 2010, Eric and Chad's case worker invited them to an “adoption party.” That's an informal event where prospective parents can meet older children awaiting adoption.
Forming a family
The DHS adoption party has a carnival atmosphere, with games and face-painting for the children. That's where Eric and Chad met two sisters, now ages 5 and 7, and their brother, now 10. The siblings were living in separate foster homes.
“We actually spent the majority of our time with them,” Eric said. “I guess when you know, you know. After that, we just started (supervised) visits with the kids at the park or at DHS.”
Over the course of three weeks in June 2010, the three children moved in with Eric and Chad.
Sheree Powell, a spokeswoman with DHS, said such “nonrelated” adoptions made up 14 percent of the agency's 1,382 adoptions last year.
Most adopted children under DHS care go to either relatives or foster parents.
Since the siblings came from three different foster homes, there were many changes for both parents and children.
“It was a lot of adjustment, a lot of learning,” Eric said. “They were three developed personalities. It's been a really good year. They complete milestones every day.”
“Before, it was just me and him and our dogs, that was our family,” Chad said. “Once we got kids, your life becomes centered around the kids. It's been for the better, and we actually enjoy it.
“Every time I hear them say, ‘Daddy,' it melts my heart.”
The couple has regular date nights and counts on friends and family for support. Facebook is a popular place for the couple to ask for advice about child development and discipline.
“I think our relationship is actually stronger now than when we started before, because there's so much more we have to be together on just to deal with the kids,” Eric said. “Whether it's discipline or homework, we have to tackle it together.”
Still, Eric and Chad said they were a little wary of how others would react to their new family.
“This is a very conservative state, but I have been pleasantly surprised that we have not had any negative feedback,” Eric said. “We've been lucky. They haven't been confronted with any negativity or any push back from anybody else that we've encountered.
“They've been encountered with very positive reinforcement and with loving arms, whether it's school or any of our social stuff. It's been a good experience with them.”