The Duddy-Burke Family Adoption Story

posted on Fri, Nov 6 2015 2:09 pm by Jaime Bellemare, Digital Associate

Hi! We are the Duddy-Burkes—Becky, Marianne, Emily and Fini. We live in Boston, Massachusetts.

Becky and I met at church on Easter Sunday 1994. We got married in a religious service in 1998, and were civilly married in 2004. When we first met, we were in really different places on the issue of parenting. I’d always wanted to be a Mom, but Becky did not have that desire. Eventually, we agreed to be really great aunts to the many kids in our families.

Shortly after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, that all changed. Like many, we took stock of our lives, and realized just how blessed we were. We had meaningful, satisfying jobs, a comfortable home, the support of our families, and a great network of friends, largely through our faith community, Dignity/Boston, an inclusive, progressive Catholic community entirely affirming of LGBT people and families. We found ourselves both feeling the call to open our home to a child who needed a family.

We excitedly began researching international adoption, but soon found that there was no country that would consider an application from an openly lesbian couple. For us, it was important to complete the process together, rather than having one of us adopt as a single parent and add the second parent later on. So, we started looking into domestic options and quickly decided to go through the foster care system.

Our first call was to Catholic Charities, as both of us are Catholic and our faith is an important part of our lives. In addition, at the time, Catholic Charities was the largest provider of foster care and adoption services in Massachusetts. The social worker we spoke with was frank. She told us that while the agency would train and license us, supervisors forbade placement of children with same-sex couples. We were incredulous! Without knowing a thing about us, other than that we were two women, this Catholic institution had deemed us unfit to be parents. Worse, we realized that these prejudicial attitudes and policies meant that kids were lingering in temporary situations far longer than necessary, and that many people who could provide stable, loving homes were being banned simply because of who they are.

Fortunately, our state is very supportive of LGBT people as parents, so we were able to obtain training and licensure directly through the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Within a few months, we were matched with our older daughter, Emily. She was living in a medical foster home and was 9 months old when we met her and instantly fell in love. After a month of visits, and lots of great advice from her foster mom, Emily came home just before Christmas in 2002. What a joyful holiday season that was! Over time, and with the help of Early Intervention, she overcame most of her early challenges, and is now a healthy, happy 13-year-old, a gifted artist with a great sense of fashion, who is hoping to get into a high school that focuses on international culture and languages.

After a few years, we felt ready to enlarge our family, and got in touch with DCF once again. We met Fini when she was four years old, living with a foster family on Cape Cod. She came home just before she turned five. Fini has worked really hard to deal with significant trauma, and she’s recently moved to a new school that has a program to better support her educational needs. At 12, she is a new member of her school’s football team, and is a technology whiz! She has an awesome sense of humor and is very athletic.

Our family loves to celebrate special occasions, and we have lots of traditions we enjoy together. We just went on our annual apple- and pumpkin-picking day, decorated our home for Halloween, and love to carve spooky jack-o-lanterns. At Christmas, we cut down our own tree, bake a lot of cookies, and travel to visit our extended families. Every year, we dye dozens of Easter eggs, which we share at our Church’s Easter breakfast. We celebrate each girl’s Homecoming Day, as well as National Adoption Day, when each of their adoptions was finalized, and of course, birthdays are big events! We have a great time participating in some annual charity events as a family, and like to take road trips. We hope to take a trip around the US in the next year or two.

Our extended family is large and spread across the country. “Aunts” and “Uncles,” mostly from our Dignity community, take Emily and Fini on special outings, help them deal with the challenges of being young teens, and attend school and sporting events to cheer them on. With relatives from Maine to California, we have lots of great places to visit to see family. We stay connected with one of our daughter’s birth family, seeing her siblings several times a year. The girls look forward to seeing Dignity friends from across the country at biennial conventions and other special events. We feel very blessed to have a lot of love and support for our family, and that our lives are so full and rich. Building our family through adoption was the right choice for us!