By Kathy Day
Solana Beach resident Dave Roberts spent last week doing what a lot of parents were doing: attending his son’s awards ceremony at Torrey Pines High; going to see his 9-year-old son in a third-grade play; catching his daughter’s first hula recital; sharing news that his 5-year-old son had been named “Inspirational Kindergartner of the Year”; and that his 12-year-old son had been named to the Little League All-Star Team.
Oh, and fulfilling his duties as a county supervisor, which included participating in a forum on nuclear energy — which meant having to explain to the former prime minister of Japan that he had to leave early for the two school events on June 4.
While it’s all in a day’s work for Roberts, a former Solana Beach City councilman, it’s not so traditional for a couple of reasons. First, he is gay, married to Wally Oliver, who has been his partner for more than 14 years. Oliver, a third-generation San Diegan and retired Air Force master sergeant, and Roberts run J2 Enterprises, a property management firm. That enables Oliver to double as a business person and “stay-at-home dad and taxi service,” Roberts said.
Second, the couple’s children were all their foster children whom they chose to adopt. Three of them are biologically related, Roberts said. And even though their third experience in adopting resulted in litigation — which they won — he believes the system works and the couple stands ready to adopt again if the need arises.
“Two of our three birth mothers have had [other] babies,” he said, adding that they recently met with one of the mothers and her 5-month-old child. “That means we have first right of refusal if things don’t work out … We want to keep the families together.”
Their experience and knowledge of the foster care and adoption system in San Diego County prompted Roberts to team up with fellow Supervisor Greg Cox to spearhead the new Exceptional Families Adoption Campaign, which earned the unanimous support of the Board of Supervisors.
The drive aims to increase awareness about the need for adoptive families – who may themselves be non-traditional like the Roberts-Oliver family – or who are willing to adopt children who are in sibling groups that want to stay together or who have behavioral, developmental, psychological or medical needs, Roberts said.
“We want to refocus the spotlight,” he said. “It was on foster kids in general; we want to move it more to the exceptional families and exceptional children … There are 3.2 million people in the county. There have to be homes for these children.”
He cited, as an example, a family that recently adopted a child they had been fostering who was so severely abused that he will need the assistance of medical equipment for life, Roberts said.
He and Oliver first learned about the county’s efforts years ago at the San Diego County Fair. Their son, who is graduating from Torrey Pines on June 14, joined their family when he was in kindergarten, Roberts said, noting the graduation is bittersweet since it means the new grad will be leaving home once he follows through on his desire to enlist in the military.
This year, after an absence of several years, the county staff will again be visible at the Fair, promoting the new adoption effort and sharing information about foster programs as well. It’s just the beginning, Roberts said, noting that the staff is currently working on the specifics of their outreach efforts and coordinating with the county’s Health and Human Services Department. In addition, he and Cox are discussing other ways to improve the system.
Each year about 400 children are adopted – figures on the number of foster children range from more than 3,000 to 5,000. And each year about 45 children ready for adoption are left out, Roberts said.
“We think there’s a loving home for every child, and every child deserves a loving family,” he added. “It’s wonderful to be parents. Our kids have changed our lives.”
Learn more about the Exceptional Families Adoption Campaign at IADOPTU.org; 1-877-I-ADOPT-U (877-423-6788), or email firstname.lastname@example.org