“Sometimes you need to open your heart and mind”
David Earp and Joel Guinn sum up their advice to prospective foster and adoptive parents in three words: “Just do it!”
Since 2009, David and Joel have welcomed 13 children from the foster care system into their home. They also found their adoptive son. Now, the couple looks forward to adopting more children.
A teen in need
David and Joel first looked into private adoption, then learned about the opportunity to adopt through the foster care system. The county’s social workers became an invaluable resource to them during the months and years that followed.
After completing the licensing process, the couple began providing respite care for kids and anticipated adopting a baby. Soon their social worker called to tell them about a 15-year-old girl who was in need of a foster placement—and expecting a child.
“Sometimes you need to open your heart and mind,” Joel says.
The young woman stayed with the Earp/Guinn family through her high school years, and they formed a lasting bond. She is in college now and still joins the family for twice-monthly family dinners. Her five-year-old daughter is thriving, and calls David and Joel “Grandpa.”
In 2012, David and Joel received a call from their social worker about a 14-year-old in need of placement.
“Zakery had been living with another foster family, and they were planning on adopting him,” David recalls. When the family found out that Zakery was gay, the situation became strained.
“His social worker wanted him to be part of a family where he could see a functioning, healthy gay relationship,” Joel adds. One week later, Zakery arrived at the couple’s home. “He came out to us on the second day of the placement,” Joel recalls. “He said, ‘I’m like you and David.’ And I said, ‘Fat and bald?’”
Joel and David thanked Zakery for being honest and reassured him that “it doesn’t matter if you are gay or straight. We love you no matter what.”
David and Joel adopted Zakery when he was 15, six months after his arrival at their home. With David and Joel, the teen found a supportive environment with parents who loved him and believed in his potential. He began to achieve in school. A high school senior today, he maintains a high GPA and also takes college classes at a local community college. He’s been accepted at a four-year university, where he plans on studying clinical psychology.
As their son gets ready to leave the nest, David and Joel hope to adopt the young sisters that they have been fostering for two years. Joel also regularly teaches foster parenting preparation classes, and Zakery has joined him to speak to prospective parents.
“My dads have given me an environment where I feel safe and can be myself,” Zakery says.
David and Joel encourage others to consider adopting older kids. They offer the following humorous and heartfelt list about why it’s great to adopt a teen.
- No diapers.
- They can tell you what’s wrong.
- They sleep through the night—mostly.
- They can help with chores.
- You can introduce them to your interests and learn from theirs.
- They will make you laugh—and you’ll cry too, when they grow up right before your eyes.
“We’re very proud of the young man our son has become, and we look forward to adopting again,” Joel says.