OKLAHOMA CITY - Mitch Dailey and Sean Freiley got married May 21, 2016. A happy time for the couple, but something was missing from their lives.
"For me, it was about legacy. As gay men and elder siblings, we both have younger siblings. We weren't going to have biological children, so why not create a family of choice?” Sean Freiley said.
And with DHS, they felt like there were many options for adoption.
"So for us to be able to adopt teenagers, siblings, biracial and create a family like that, we were supported. Full supported by DHS,” Freiley said.
First, they had to fill out paperwork before DHS officials checked out their home to make sure it was safe for children. Finally, they were interviewed about the type of child they wanted to adopt.
"Mitch was drawn to teenagers who were in danger of aging out without a family," he said.
Bio after bio, photo after photo, the couple poured over all of the hundreds of children ready for adoption until they saw a photo of a brother and sister.
"There was just something there before we had met them," Mitch Dailey said.
"It was Jerimiah's eyes,” Sean Freiley said.
Love at first sight, but would the siblings feel the same connection?
"They had such a wonderful, colorful personalities that I was really proud of and they needed some parents that really reflected that,” Tracy Zimmerman, adoption transitions unit DHS employee, said.
Like Mitch and Sean, hundreds of parents are looking for a child to bring into their life.
In all, there are 180 children who are in state custody and are ready for adoption.
On this day, they packed into Douglass High School with one goal.
"I just want a family together of our own,” Tavares said.
Adoption workers help connect the potential parents with the children. These "adoption parties" take place around the state about four times a year.
"Our unit has a lot of discussions with the kids to learn likes, dislikes. If they're okay with same-sex couples, if they're okay with a mom or dad," John Stokes, DHS adoption transition unit worker, said.
It was at one of these adoption parties Mitch and Sean met Jasmine and Jerimiah for the first time.
"We asked her how she might feel about living with two dads. Her answer will always inspire me. 'As long as I have space, I'm good,” Sean Freiley said.
And Jasmine saw something different with this couple.
"I like how they gave us their undivided attention, even though they had several children asking for them,” Jasmine said.
They met eyes once again with Jerimiah, but this time in real life.
The then 14-year-old was skeptical though. Not about the couple, but about being adopted.
"I was like looking at everybody and I'm just like, 'I don't know about this.' And I'm like, 'I really want a home for my sister, but I really don't know about myself,’” Jerimiah said.
About a month later, Sean and Mitch got approved by DHS to have their first meet up with the teens in the presence of a DHS worker. They chose pizza and ice cream.
"When we got to hang out with them and they told us they wanted to call us dad from day one, we were sold,” Sean Freiley said.
Ten years working at DHS and Tracy Zimmerman knows a connection when she sees one.
"We just knew at that time it's like, 'Okay, bring on the judge. Let's do this,'” Zimmerman said.
Jerimiah and Jasmine felt the same energy.
"I just all of a sudden got nerdy about everything and they liked that,” Jerimiah said.
"It took me until Roxy's that I knew they were going to be my parents for a lifetime,” Jasmine said.
Sean and Mitch expanded their home and by May of 2017, both children were back under one roof.
It didn't take long to see a big change in their demeanor.
"The laughter comes back,” Mitch Dailey said.
"They have the space to dream. I can imagine living in the situations in which they lived, they didn't have the opportunity to do anything but dream,” Sean Freiley said.
The family made it permanent in front of a judge back in January. The entire process took almost a year and a half.
While Mitch and Sean say the adoption process can be daunting, they say it`s worth it.
"It's time-consuming. It's a lot of work, but in the end it's so worth it,” Mitch Dailey said.
A family of four now complete under one roof they can all call home.
If you've ever thought about adopting a child through DHS, there are several home assessments you have to complete including background checks, a medical examination and reference checks to name a few. There are also basic requirements you may not know:
- You must be at least 21.
-You must be in reasonably good health.
- You must be able to meet the financial needs of a family.
- Be able to provide protection and nurture children in your care.
For more information, call Tom Peterson at (405) 325-9398.
Click here for more resources.
'A Place To Call Home' is sponsored by Great Plains Bank.