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Jason Cook (top), Michael Troynél and daughter Paris Cook-Troynél were featured in RaiseAChild’s L.A. media campaign last November. According to the organization, the program recruited 200 prospective families within the month.
by Vivien Santana Hughes
Michael Troynél and Jason Cook started to suspect something was up when the event speakers kept talking and talking – about them. Still, they were very surprised (and honored and humbled) to receive a formal certificate of appreciation from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services at the recent L.A. launch of Heart Gallery, a national photo exhibition of foster kids seeking “forever homes.”
The recognition was well deserved. Since 2002, the couple, who met 13 years ago, has adopted and raised seven (seven!) foster children: Their five sons (now ages 13-22) are biological siblings as are their two daughters (now 7 and 8).
Not only dedicated to their family, Troynél and Cook are also active in the L.A.-based Pop Luck Club, an organization that educates and supports gay parents during and after adoption and, with daughter Paris, are one of this year’s model families for RaiseAChild, which encourages the gay and lesbian community to foster and adopt.
Have you always imagined adopting?
Jason Cook: I come from a large family and we were always doing things together, so I knew I wanted to have a large family, too.
Michael Troynél: When I was a child, I actually told my mother that when I got older I wanted to adopt.
JC: Did we plan on adopting seven kids when we first met? Oh, no!
You went from zero to wow – this is a big family!
JC: It went in stages. When we first started the process, we were thinking, “Maybe two....” Then we went to the Black Adoption Festival in Torrance and met a group of three boys. Our oldest, Aaron, was then 11, Karon was 9 and Shakir, 5.
MT: All the kids are walking around with name tags that are color coded with whether they are a single child or a group of two or three. It was weird … even if you have a single child in mind, how do you not look at everyone else as well?
JC: We were just about to finalize in court and found out they had two younger brothers who were still in the system.
MT: The court had not even considered the younger two boys being adopted with their older siblings.
And the girls are siblings as well?
JC: Michael’s aunt was adopting two boys when we found out the boys’ mother was about to have another child. We wanted to keep the family together. About a year and a half after that, we got a call that the mother had had another baby and were we interested in adopting her? It was our daughter’s sister, we couldn’t say no.
Is it still harder for gay couples to adopt?
MT: Not here in California, but there are challenges in some other states. When we lived in Georgia, we would have had to adopt separately, as a second parent, not together.
JC: In Los Angeles, the Department of Children and Family is so supportive of gay men and women.
Any more kids?
MT: We’re in the process of adopting again!
JC: I go on the Heart Gallery website every other day. It really keeps us motivated to see these kids who need homes. To see their faces and read their stories. It makes it all worth it. And our kids are really excited about it.
MT: They’ve even been coming up with names.
JC: We told them, “They may already have a name!”
Chat Room columnist Vivien Santana Hughes is a former L.A. Parent editor and the mother of three – one university grad, one in college and (surprise!) a 7-year-old daughter.
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