Finding Life: Local filmmaker explores local gay and lesbian adoptions

Photo courtesy Carlton Smith

A local filmmaker’s documentary of adoption in LGBT families is now available to the public.

Carlton Smith’s “Finding Life” was recently picked up by Amazon and Google Play, allowing subscribers to watch his film following the lives of eight same-sex couples and their experience with adopting their children.

“I’ve only shared it to those who have worked on the film,” Smith said. “I’m excited to get everyone’s thoughts and opinions. Ultimately, the goal is to make people take a second look at fostering, for straight couples or gay couples.”

Smith has worked in the film industry for a number of years, including the country music scene while living in Tennessee. His last film, “The Black Miami,” looked at the contributions of African Americans in the Magic City. It too, was picked up by Amazon and Google Play.

It was while he was working his full-time job that he ended up at Kids in Distress. There, he saw a little boy walk into the room and yell “Daddies!” then running into the arms of two men.

“My jaw dropped and I was like, ‘Did that kid say daddies?’”

Smith, a gay man himself, had no idea same-sex couples could adopt or foster children. As he studied up on it, he decided his second film would be about LGBT couples expanding their families. For two years from start to finish, he was welcomed into the homes of multiple couples of different races and backgrounds to share their stories, all of which vary.

At the start of the filmmaking process for “Finding Life,” gay couples were not allowed to adopt. In 2010, the state’s ban on gay people adopting was overturned, but couples together could not adopt. Typically, one partner would adopt and be the child’s legal parent. The second parent was legally no more than a babysitter. Finally, in 2015, couples were given the right to adopt and be legally recognized as parents in the eyes of the law.

“I just wanted to really show that it didn’t matter, gay, straight or what your race is, that everybody if they’re willing and able can foster children,” Smith said. “It’s so important to show the diversity that’s out there.”

Also, Smith hopes it’s a learning experience for the LGBT community, some who may be like he was and learn that it’s possible to have children.

“I think it’s going to touch your heart. Whether you want to be a parent, whether you want to be a  parent, whether you’re gay, whether you’re straight, it’s going to touch your heart.

Want to watch “Finding Life?” Visit FindingLifeMovie.com to watch on Amazon or Google Play.

 

Story originally published in South Florida Gay News.

Gays With Kids: Community for Gay Fathers Growing

Ferd van Gameren, left, and his husband, Brian Rosenberg, with their son Levi, 6, and twin daughters, Ella and Sadie, 5. The couple founded Gays With Kids in 2014. Credit: Robert Figueroa

Ferd van Gameren, left, and his husband, Brian Rosenberg, with their son Levi, 6, and twin daughters, Ella and Sadie, 5. The couple founded Gays With Kids in 2014. (Robert Figueroa)

In 2009, Bryan Rosenberg and his husband Ferd van Gameren had just found out they were going to be parents – a 3-day-old baby boy was available for adoption – so they needed to get their house ready right away.

The couple took off from store to store with a doula to help them pick out what they would need for a newborn — bottles, bibs, bouncers and all — when they noticed that everything was geared towards moms.

“I swear half the labels on the products that we ended up buying said ‘Made for mommies!’ ‘Approved by mommies!’” Rosenberg laughed. “Are we not supposed to buy this stuff?”

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Gay Adoption — One Couple’s Story

Photo courtesy of the Allen-McDaniel family

Photo courtesy of the Allen-McDaniel family

Stepping inside the Allen-McDaniel household, it’s very clear that two little girls reside inside. The sounds of the animated film “Rio” plays from the television, a “Frozen” table is the perfect size for little ones, and a pink kitchen playset is surrounded by dolls and toys. Laying on the floor as they wind down after dinner are Sarah, 3, and Maddie, 2, staring up at the adventures of exotic birds.

Not only do two little girls live here, but two very loved little girls.

“Sarah asked me just the other day for the first time, ‘Why do I have two daddies?’ And I said, ‘Because God knew that you were supposed to be with us,’” said Jim Allen-McDaniel.

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Gay Adoption Without Borders

When William Sherr and his partner’s teenage son, Jared, was in kindergarten, his classmates just didn’t understand his drawing of his family. With two stick figure daddies and no mommy to be found on the page, the other 5-year-olds were confused.

“I remember my son being very adamant in school that [his siblings] had two dads; they didn’t have a mother,” Sherr, a former kindergarten teacher himself, said. “A lot of kids back then were very confused by that.”

However, times have changed and now his daughter, 7, has a very different experience. Her classmates are unphased that she has two daddies, and that other kids have two mommies, one parent, or a mommy and a daddy.

“It just shows the culture is getting more open and understanding it… it’s interesting to watch the evolution of acceptance of gay families,” he said.

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