In 1984, my step-father adopted my brother, sister and my self. What a lesson I learned about life – one man can love another man’s children enough to call them his own.

Adoption was not unfamiliar to us growing up, as we had several family and friends who had adopted children. In 1998, my dear friends, Bill & Kay Hetzer, lost their 16yo son in a tragic automobile accident on Mother’s Day. The summer of 1999, Bill and I were eating lunch when I casually mentioned I was interested in adoption. Bill laid down his fork and said, “You know, Kay and I have been discussing this very thing. We are not done being parents yet.” Thus began an incredible adventure.

I was still busy directing shows and had no spare time to devote myself to investigating all the different adoption agencies in the Miami Valley. Bill & Kay discovered a wonderful little agency in North Dayton – ACTION Adoption. They met the executive director, Patricia Hill and immediately formed a bond. Pat, a single mom, had adopted 20 children, all with special needs.

In February 2000, 7yo Joey arrived in the Hetzer home, and the following summer, Chris was adopted. 2002 was my year! May 1, I took time off from teaching and drove to ACTION, talked with Pat Hill and hurried off with my application. I drove over to Wendy’s grabbed lunch, and while Flyer played, I filled out my application.

The following Friday, I attended my first pre-service adoption classes. It would be a long process, but I was ready. The following Wednesday, May 8, I received several calls from the ladies at ACTION – they found two brothers, 13 and 15, who were both into band, choir and show choir. Now, I was only wanting a little boy between 5-8, and this was quite a shock! Teenagers! No way. I drove home thinking about those two boys. My birth father abandoned us when I was eleven – the years when I needed a father most. My grandfather and uncles were wonderful role models, but they were not real dads – they were still my grandpa and uncles.

By the next morning, I had decided to investigate the teen boys. The problem was that they were going to be going back to court for state custody and I had just begun the process. The ladies at ACTION went into action and with extra classes and private tutoring, my home study was completed in 11 days. Unfortunately, the brothers were not released to state custody.

June 16, I scanned several websites and found one boy from Texas. I submitted the on-line inquiry form and the following Monday afternoon, Robin Tinsley, a recuiter from Texas, called me. Not only did this telephone call begin my adventures in fatherhood, it also began a wonderful friendship with Robin who is still a faithful friend to our family.

It seemed as if everything suddenly went from slow motion to a speed blurred in my mind. July 24th, I was on the airplane, heading to San Antonio to meet my new son, Matthew, 12. Robin and I had a fantastic dinner and the following morning I was hugging my new son. We spent four days around the San Antonio area and even went to visit my great-great uncle and aunt, Raymond & Betty Daugherty, and their son, Steve, in Houston. That Sunday, Matt turned 13 and we celebrated his birthday at Fiesta Texas Six Flags. A week later, Robin arrived with Matthew.

The first year of transition was very difficult, but there always seemed to be a glimmer of light at the end of the long tunnel. The following Spring, there was an attempt to adopt a 15yo who was just not adoptable. We had moved into a new home next to the high school and he just could not become absorbed in a family life.

That September we finalized with Matthew, and immediately, the tunnel light began growing brighter and brighter. The end of his 8th grade year, Matt was making all A’s and B’s, and was awarded the Knights of Excellence Outstanding 8th grade choir member. That May, he made the high school show choir. Now Matt is an A’s student, sings in the high school concert choir, the show choir, and is involved in the musicals and the Latin Club.

The fall of 2004, Jose, 12, came to live with us from Oregon. He was exactly what our family needed – a bright little burst of humor and sunlight. Jose had an incredile amount of cheerfulness and a positive outlook. His transition was much easier than Matt’s, but school was a challege. The first semester was spent just getting organized in school life. Ending the first semester with all F’s and D’s, his teachers, new tutor (Sue Branson) and I all regrouped and made our action plan. The first nine weeks, Jose had all A’s going. The end of the semester he had 3-A’s, 3-B’s and one C. He also received a Knights of Excellence Award for Outstanding Language Arts Awards in the 6th grade.

Every one in my family has been extremely supportive of my adopting children. My mother and sister have been especially wonderful of accepting my sons. Unfortunately, my brother, who himself was adopted by our step-father, has been the only one who clearly does not accept my sons as true members of our family. My mother, sister and I were quite hurt when he indicated to my sister that his new born son was her “first real nephew.”

Thanks to David Haas, who adopted me 20 years ago today, I learned that it does not matter to whom a child is born… it is possible to love any child, accepting them as your own and raising them as you would your birth children.

In the past few years I have become quite a strong advocate of older child adoption and a number of friends are now parents of older children.

Here is a photograph of my two boys, taken the night Jose arrived with us, 17 Sept 2004. The above photo is of the Hetzer family, Bill and Kay, and their sons, Chris, Brian and Joey.

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