Steven and Roger Ham may seem like your typical parents. They take the kids to school, make sure everyone does their homework and even introduced a dog and kitty to the household. The only difference – these dads are raising 12 kids in their Phoenix home (in a state that doesn’t allow same-sex marriage and where legislators have tried to pass anti-gay adoption laws for years). That’s one of the reasons why Esquire named them among the “10 Best Dads of 2012″.
The oldest of this clan is 17 and the youngest is just three – and all are adopted. According to an article from the couple’s hometown paper, Steven spent six years as a stay-at-home dad raising the kids, though he went back to work for the first time this year – while Roger (a school bus driver) took 11 of the kids on a trip to the West coast during his summer off. The men – both in their 40s – have been together for nearly 19 years.
Esquire credits these gay dads with being great parents despite the odds. Since Arizona law prohibits marriage and adoption for same-sex couples, 10 of the children are legally bound only to Steven and two others, who had been adopted in Washington State where the laws favor LGBT parents, have been legally adopted by both proud papas. To make things easier at home, Roger even changed his name so that the family could have more consistency.
But no matter how many legal precautions taken to ensure the kids are cared for (paperwork for custody and emergency room visits, for starters), the anti-gay laws in the state still leaves them out of inheritance, shared healthcare and Social Security benefits. And if these dads decided to re-adopt the kids in a state that allows it, well, that would cost as much as $1,500 per child – money best used for this year’s back-to-school supplies and gas for the family van.
But over the years, these guys have welcomed 30 foster kids into their home. “Governor Jan Brewer recently honored Steven and Roger with an award for their efforts to keep foster-care siblings together through adoption,” says Esquire. Maybe she’ll think of them the next time she passes a law that makes parenting harder for couples who succeed despite the odds – couples just like Steven and Roger.