From the time we are children, we start to generate ideas of what we want our lives to be like, the milestones we aspire to celebrate — like graduating from college, getting married and raising children. However, as we get older, these hopes become more complicated and we have to take into account finances, relationship and time commitments, the prospect of other new responsibilities, and handling all those logistics.
Some families face more barriers when it comes to celebrating milestones. Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in 2015, same-sex marriage is legal in the U.S., but it is still a lot more complicated for same-sex couples to have children than it is for heterosexual couples — like, a LOT more complicated.
Jeni and Ashlie, two proud moms in Alamosa, have been fostering children since 2018 (we are omitting their last name for the family’s privacy). They explored expanding their family several years before taking in their first foster child, and like many couples, tried fertility treatments. However, they felt a deep calling toward fostering and adopting children who need a safe and loving home — something they could provide.
While fostering three children over the last year or so, they formally adopted their son Zaiden last October. He had already experienced three foster placements before Ashlie and Jeni gave him his forever home when he was 5 months old. The couple says the hardest thing about being a foster parent is knowing that “they are OUR kiddos for as long as they are with us, yet we don’t have much of a say at all about big decisions in their lives, including their next step.” When it comes to fostering, an often overlooked way of growing a family, the couple has a motto: “Our time together may be temporary, but our love is forever.”
Jeni and Ashlie relied on their county’s resources for fostering and for Zaiden’s adoption, but also recommend adoptuskids.org. This website facilitates legal and free adoption of children who are in the foster system, waiting for their forever homes.
Adoption is legal nationwide for same-sex couples, although specific laws vary from state to state. In Colorado, anyone can adopt as long as they are over the age of 21 and have never been convicted of a felony involving violence, child abuse or unlawful sexual behavior. In addition to fostering and adopting, same-sex couples have a spectrum of other options when it comes to expanding their families. For instance, sometimes partners already have children from previous relationships and build blended families.
If a partner wishes to bear a child, artificial insemination might be the route. This process occurs when sperm is deposited in the cervix or uterine cavity in hopes of fertilizing an egg. The goal then is for a fertilized embryo to attach to the uterine wall and develop into a fetus. One of the main barriers with this process (like many of the options same-sex families have if they want children) is the cost. Sperm can easily cost hundreds of dollars per vial. The procedure, on average, costs an additional $500 to $1,500 for a single cycle, and is not always successful on the first try.
Another method LGBTQ folks sometimes use is in-vitro fertilization, commonly known as IVF. It’s also popular with heterosexual couples who struggle to conceive. IVF is when a doctor retrieves mature eggs from ovaries and fertilizes them in a lab. Once the eggs become fertilized, one or more embryos are transferred into a uterus. Like artificial insemination, IVF can be costly, especially when couples have to try multiple times. This takes an emotional toll on heterosexual and queer couples alike, especially if they face miscarriages or experience feelings of hopelessness in their quest to build and expand families.
If becoming pregnant isn’t an option, couples might try surrogacy, in which someone else will carry the fetus. This is also expensive, easily costing $40,000 to $55,000, which doesn’t even cover the procedure, hospital fees and fees required by surrogacy agencies, which set up couples with a surrogate.
Ellen Trachman, founder of Denver-based Trachman Law Center, specializes in assisted reproductive technology law (egg, sperm, embryo donation and surrogacy) and regularly works with LGBTQ families. She says that aside from the politics and legalities, cost is one of the greatest barriers for LGBTQ families. Many insurance companies don’t recognize infertility as a medical condition and won’t provide coverage for treatment.
Luckily, HB-1158, the Colorado Building Families Act, will require insurance companies to provide coverage for infertility conditions. The bill passed in both the Colorado House and Senate in late March, and Gov. Jared Polis signed it into law April 1.
“We are excited for Colorado to become the 18th state to recognize the need for insurance to cover fertility medical care the same as it would for other necessary medical care, and for all Coloradans,” Trachman writes in an email to the Indy. “Fertility treatment can be overwhelmingly expensive, but for many, especially in the LGBTQ+ community, [it] may be necessary to enjoy one of the most meaningful human experiences — being a parent.”
When asked what message Jeni and Ashlie would share with those going through the process of building a family, they express sincere joy: “We are so happy... We share this because we need you to hear that happiness is for you too. A family, if that’s what you desire, is for you too.”