Two Dads and a Dozen Children
The Ham Family of Phoenix, Arizona
By Angeline Acain
When I received an email from Steve Ham, I could not pass up his offer. He and his partner Roger was in the process of adopting their twelfth child and he asked would Gay Parent magazine (GPM) like to feature them? Since this is the end of GPM’s 12th year of publishing and November is National Adoption month I thought featuring the Ham family in this issue more than appropriate. Steve suggested I also include in this article the worker who helped place their children, Heather Shew-Plummer.
Says Heather enthusiastically, “I love them! They came to my agency only wanting one child and ended up with twelve. I was with AASK-AZ as the Adoption and Foster Care Supervisor for about 10 years. Steve and Roger was one of my very first families. I wrote their home study and placed all twelve children in their home. I am now with Building Arizona Families as the Domestic Program Coordinator. Steve and Roger were on my caseload at AASK and I was responsible for all aspects of the placement. I facilitated the post placement visits, assisted in any resources and services for the family and attended all meetings in regards to the children placed in their home.” She continues, “They are amazing parents and have never been afraid to fight for their children. They are huge advocates and have always been a united front. I was never worried about placing more children in their home; they have an amazing system and routine. I have a strong connection to them and truly love them as parents and all their children! I never realized what a gift they had for parenting until they completed the adoption of their first son’s five siblings. They have enough room in their hearts for every child and they push their children to be the best. I will remain a part of their family forever. We talk frequently and see each other as often as we can. I know that when their children start graduating high school and college I will be right there along side Steve and Roger cheering very loudly!”
In the following interview Steve gives us a glimpse of this incredible family.
Gay Parent magazine: How long have you and Roger been together? At what point in your relationship did you discuss raising children?
Steve Ham: Roger and I have been together for 18 years. We started discussing children after being together about 6 years.
GPM: When you first met, did you both want to have a lot of children?
SH: No, although Roger was already co-parenting a child when we first met, the thought of raising children had not crossed my mind.
GPM: Have you seen the movie Cheaper by the Dozen?
SH: Yes, several times, Ha-ha.
GPM: Please tell me about your adoption process.
SH: We were required to take thirty-two hours of classes and a CPR/First Aid class. We were also subject to a background check.
GPM: Who was adopted first, second, third, etc.?
SH: In the beginning I wanted to adopt just one child. My ideal child was a 3-year-old half African American half Caucasian female. However we where matched with a 5-year-old Hispanic boy named Michael. After meeting Michael we found out he had five siblings and that they were going to be split up and adopted out separately. Michael’s siblings were Elizabeth, Andrew, Jackson, Madison and Vanessa. After Roger and I adopted the six siblings, I really wanted to adopt a baby. Our adoption agency told us that the only way we would ever get a baby is if we did foster care with the intent of adopting, this process is known as fost/adopt. So we put our names on the list and a few days later we were given a baby boy right from the hospital. We were told from the beginning that this child would never be returned to his biological mother and we would be able to adopt him. Much to our surprise he was returned to his biological mother after we cared for Marcus for five and a half months. But three days later we received a phone call about Marcus asking if we would be willing to take him.
Unknown to us our names were still on the list. Five months later while the kids and I are outside hanging up Halloween decorations we receive a call about Ambrose, and here we are three years later. While in the process of adopting Marcus and Ambrose, I was asked to foster a baby boy. His name was Cooper. After Cooper was adopted Roger and I felt so lucky that we had nine children with little or no special needs, so we decided to look into adopting a more hard to place child. We were matched with 4-year-old Logan. When we heard Logan was being separated from his sister Isabel, Roger and I said we would take both Isabel and Logan or neither. While in the midst of adopting Logan and Isabel, Cooper’s mother had another baby and abandoned her. We were called and asked if we would take her. So we adopted Olivia.
GPM: Did you adopt domestically from Arizona?
SH: Yes, we adopted all the children from Arizona except for Isabel and Logan. They where adopted from Washington state which allows same sex adoptions – Roger and I are both named on their birth certificates as their parents.
GPM: Did you experience any discrimination from agency workers?
SH: Once when we were fighting to keep the six siblings together we had to sit in front of a panel and were asked a series of questions concerning the twins, Madison and Jackson. We were asked questions like, “Being that you are two men, how would you change Madison’s diaper?” “What if Madison asks why she doesn't have a mother?” The questions went on and got worse. I know that a straight couple or single male or female would never been asked these sort of questions.
GPM: Please give me a brief description of each of your children.
SH: I asked the kids what they liked and disliked for this question. Vanessa, age 15, plays volleyball, likes music, reading books and drill team. She dislikes fake people and dishonesty. Vanessa is a very outgoing, happy go lucky girl. She currently has a 4.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Isabel, age 13, enjoys basketball, karate, music, Justin Bieber, and reading Teen Beat magazine. She dislikes mean people, and gossip. Isabel is a very helpful caring child and currently has a 4.0 GPA.
Michael, also age 13, likes video games, basketball, skateboarding, swimming, and all sports. He dislikes that Amar’e Stoudimire left the Phoenix Suns. Michael does not like when it rains. He is a rounded athlete and student with a current GPA of 4.0. Elizabeth, age 12, like Isabel and Michael, Elizabeth also enjoys basketball. She also likes Taylor Lautner and Silly Bands. She loves reading, swimming, karate and saving money. She dislikes people who tell lies and getting up early for school. Her current GPA is 4.0. Elizabeth has a great sense of humor and is a lot of fun to be around.
Andrew, age 11, enjoys cheerleading, basketball, skateboarding, swimming and origami. He dislikes people who steal and being grounded by his parents. Andrew is a very happy child who gets along with everyone. His current GPA is 4.0. Jackson, age 8, like most of his older siblings also likes basketball. He also enjoys skateboarding, diving, Bakugons, and Silly Bands He dislikes when it is really hot outside. He also does not like mashed potatoes and sometimes his big brother. Jackson is athletic, funny, very outgoing and a daredevil.
Madison, also age 8, likes to color, playing with her Barbie and swimming. She also likes to read, dance and do cheers. She dislikes carrots and tomatoes and cleaning her room. Madison is a girlie girl who acts, eats, talks, and walks like the princess she is. Logan, age 6, enjoys school, reading, playing, karate, soccer and swimming. He dislikes loud noises and being cold. He also dislikes when Georgia, our black Lab, chews his toys up. Logan is a very happy kid who “goes with the flow.”
Marcus, age 5, likes soccer, swimming, riding his bike, and playing his DS and our Wii. He dislikes naps, dolls, and people who pick their nose. Marcus is very active and always loves to be the center of attention. Ambrose, age 4, enjoys swimming, dress-up, and playing with dolls. She also likes to dance and do cheers. She dislikes nothing. Ambrose is a very sweet and happy girl. Cooper, age 3, likes coloring, swimming, playing with his DS, and is obsessed with Spiderman. Like Ambrose he dislikes nothing. Cooper is a comedian in the waiting. Olivia, age 1, plays with dolls and is a very happy loving girl.
GPM: Have any of your children experienced discrimination because they have two dads – at school, camp or from other children’s parents?
SH: Never. We are open and honest with all our children's teachers, camps, etc. I'm very forward about letting them all know that the kids have two dads.
GPM: How do you and Roger manage your household responsibilities?
SH: I am a stay at home dad so most of the day-to-day responsibilities fall onto me. We believe that open communication is the key so we both at any given time know what's going on or had gone on that day. Roger and I are very structured; if it’s not on the schedule it doesn't happen. We both pitch in and do what needs to be done – it’s truly second nature.
GPM: Do either of your parents help out?
SH: Roger’s mom is out of state and my parents are deceased.
GPM: Describe a typical day in your household.
SH: Roger and I get up at 5:00 AM, he leaves for work at 5:30 and the kids start getting up about 5:45. The kids eat, get dressed and leave for school at 7:20 AM. We have 12 kids and 6 different schools to get to by 8:00 AM. The kids get out of school at 2:30 PM, 2:35, 3:10 and 3:50. We eat dinner at 5:00 PM sharp. Then the evening starts with drill practice, cheerleading, karate, dance, soccer, basketball, etc.
GPM: What activities and outings do you enjoy as a family in and outside of Phoenix?
SH: We vacation three to four times a year in Colorado, Nevada or California. We try to do a family outing every weekend such as seeing a movie, performance, sporting event, or having dinner out.
GPM: What kind of car do you drive to accommodate everyone?
SH: We have a 15-passenger Ford Econoline van.
GPM: Do you receive comments from strangers when you are out regarding either the number of kids or that you are two dads?
SH: We receive complements on how well behaved the children are when we are out and about.
GPM: Do you manage to give your children individual time?
SH: We schedule date nights and lunches with each of our children.
GPM: Do you and Roger manage date nights?
SH: We make it a point to go out to lunch at least twice a week and date night at least once a month.
GPM: What advice would you have for those in the LGBT community interested in becoming first time parents through adoption?
SH: Make sure you are willing to make a lifelong commitment. Be flexible when thinking about your desired child and have a great support system in place.