Fabiola Santiago

At long last, gay parents can celebrate adoption

After parenting for almost a decade, unmarried partners Melton Goodwin and Thomas Mamrosh were finally able to adopt Kendra, 11, with the help of attorney Elizabeth Schwartz.
After parenting for almost a decade, unmarried partners Melton Goodwin and Thomas Mamrosh were finally able to adopt Kendra, 11, with the help of attorney Elizabeth Schwartz. Courtesy of the family

In a week of dreary political discourse, a photo brought light to my news feed.

As it happens these days of instant social connections, someone tagged someone I knew, and instead of videos of racist violence at rallies and other acts of infamy, a portrait of a joy-filled family appeared: Partners Melton Goodwin and Thomas Mamrosh were finally able to adopt Kendra, the 11-year-old girl they have been parenting for more than a decade. Her happiness radiates from the courtroom, her smile a balm for weary times.

The men she calls Daddy and Papa, the reason she feels “special” and loved, are both now her legal parents.

No more having to take out Melton’s guardianship papers to prove they’ve been raising the biracial child since she was 18 months old. No more of the subtle and not-so-subtle distinctions made by others that have an impact on a child’s ability to move through the world feeling safe and grounded in family.

Yet the adoption “almost didn’t happen,” Goodwin, a patent consultant, told me.

That would’ve been a crime.

Kendra was born 26 weeks premature in a hospital parking lot to a mother strung out on cocaine and alcohol, too far gone down a path from where repeated attempts at rehabilitation couldn’t bring her back. Father unknown. The baby weighed only two pounds. She spent the first year of her life in medical foster care, struggling with fetal alcohol syndrome and other ailments.

As soon as she was healthy enough to be placed, Goodwin, her uncle, took guardianship and began to co-parent her with his partner of 17 years, Mamrosh, a liver-transplant unit nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Armed with unconditional love for a child who needs more care than a lot of people are willing to give, these generous men turned a tragic beginning into a gift of family.

From the start, they wanted to adopt Kendra, but adoption by gay parents wasn’t legal until 2010. Melton could have adopted her by himself as a single man, but not together with Mamrosh. They refused to live a lie and short-change Kendra of a parent. They held out. After another barrier came down last year when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, they embarked on the legal process.

At long last, gays and lesbians can adopt and marry like anyone else, and there’s legal precedent for adoptions granting unmarried parents equal parental rights.

“Let’s not lose sight of what we’re trying to gain here: Respect for all kinds of families,” said their attorney, Elizabeth Schwartz. “Adoption is about providing stable homes and Thomas and Melton have done that for Kendra in spades.”

I visited the family’s home in North Miami on a day like any other — when Kendra was busy with school, and speech and physical therapy, Goodwin was prepping to discuss a neighborhood issue at City Hall, and Mamrosh arrived in nursing scrubs eager to greet the four Jack Russell terriers who round out their family.

In the afterglow of the adoption, Goodwin and Mamrosh became engaged. Soon another milestone photograph will cross my desk.

May the political winds favor the preservation of such happiness.

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