We asked a gay dad what 'family' meant to him. This is the story he told.

Fred Swanson always knew he wanted children, but how that was going to happen was a giant question mark.

"One of the biggest struggles for me in coming out was not having clarity on how I would have kids," Swanson says.

Swanson is gay and came out in the 1990s. At the time, he says, there weren't many models of gay men having kids of their own. Furthermore, there were several legal roadblocks for same-sex couples. Many states banned gay parents from adopting or fostering children. Even as recent as 2016, the state of Mississippi had a ban on same-sex couple adoption.


Then in 2003, a chance meeting online brought Adam Diamond into Swanson's life.

Swanson (left) and Diamond. Photo courtesy of Fred Swanson.

The two began dating, and as their relationship grew more serious, they started planning a future together. Both men were invested in having kids. Swanson had the idea to foster kids then eventually adopt.

Foster care and adoption made sense to the couple; they saw it as a way to show up for another human being.

When people talk about foster care, it often falls into a kind of savior narrative, Swanson says, but that's not the story of their family. People all over the world help each other out — Swanson and Diamond were just fortunate enough that the way they could help was to open their home to their kids.

"When someone needs a hand, you step up and you try to help out," Swanson says.

There are about 420,000 kids in foster care in the United States at any given time and those kids are disproportionately LGBTQ or black. Those are the numbers that motivated the couple to start working in 2008 with Amara, a Seattle foster care support organization, to prepare to welcome a child into their life. They left their too-cramped-for-kids home in Seattle and bought a house in Burien, a suburb about 20 minutes south.

In 2009, they welcomed 3-year-old Jaylen into their home.

But just as Jaylen was about to move in, Swanson and Diamond got a surprise. Jaylen's mom had just given birth to a newborn baby, Jaylen's little sister Jade, and wasn't going to be able to care for her. The question came up: Would Swanson and Diamond be interested in fostering a newborn as well?

It was a bit of a shock. "Neither Adam nor I had imagined that a newborn baby was going to be part of our plan," Swanson says.

Yet, two days later, they were driving down to Tacoma to pick up Jade.

"That was both exhilarating and also terrifying," Swanson says. Adding two kids, including a newborn, to their family was tremendous and sometimes overwhelming but joyful for the new parents. And, as Swanson points out, it's hard to not fall in love with a newborn baby. The couple officially adopted Jaylen in 2010 and Jade in 2014.

Over the years, their family has grown in love and size. A third child, Noah, arrived in 2012 and was adopted in 2015. There have been a few small challenges, of course, some around being LGBTQ parents — a little teasing at school (which has since stopped) and some ire at the Boy Scouts.

For the most part they're a happy, healthy family unit. Their house is full of toys. Swanson is "Daddy," and Diamond is "Aba," the Hebrew word for father. It's a life of fidget spinners and roller-rink birthday parties.

Having a family has redefined Swanson's relationship with the world.

Clockwise from top left: Fred ("Daddy"), Adam ("Aba"), Jaylen, Noah, and Jade. Photo courtesy of Fred Swanson.

It's changed his relationship with the future. "Creating a just and equitable world for my kids is different than creating that for myself," he says.

He's proud of the family he's built along with Diamond — a happy, healthy, and, yes, LGBTQ one.

Most of all, it's reaffirmed his feeling that the most important thing we can do is simply to reach out and support each other. "It really starts with 'how do I show up for you as a human and what do you need?'" Swanson says. "Parenting is a big piece of that."

True


Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


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Photo by Tod Perry

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