Patrick D’Amelio: A Dad at Heart
Patrick D’Amelio knew what he wanted to be.
“At the most basic human level I understood in my heart that I wanted to be a dad,” D’Amelio said. “It was no more complicated than that.”
The youngest of 10 kids from a Catholic family, he had a deeply held spiritual belief that he was meant to be a parent. He was the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound back then, and a single guy approaching 40. He researched nearly every option to become a dad, with some discouraging results.
“To be super candid, I went to a couple of different organizations and institutions that weren’t willing to work with a single gay man,” D’Amelio said. “That was a disappointing learning curve.”
His friends then introduced him to Lutheran Community Services’ FamilyBuilders. Our foster-adoption program works with foster parents who are committed to adoption. The goal is that children are reunified with their biological parents if possible, but are frequently adopted by foster parents.
“I do think that if children can remain with their biological parents, that is the best and highest place for children to be,” D’Amelio said. “I was willing to walk down that path without knowing the exact outcome.”
Attending eight weekly LCS Northwest foster parent classes were lessons in reality. He learned about child development, parenting, drug exposure and abuse. He understood clearly that a foster child would be coming from a tough situation. He credits his social worker, Laurie Colacurcio, with helping him understand his parenting limitations.
After a late business flight to Florida, Colacurcio left D’Amelio a voicemail that there was a potential placement. The next morning, Colacurcio told him it was a baby girl less than 10 days old. Her mother had challenges, as did the little girl.
“I don’t know how to say it other than in spiritual terms, but it was like the Holy Spirit descended on me,” he said. “I sat there for 10 minutes and didn’t say anything. I just called back and said I’m in. There began the journey.”
When healthy, his foster daughter came home to her new nursery. D’Amelio fell naturally into the role of being a “regular dad.” As a parent, his large extended family, friends and people from work rallied behind him. The first couple of months, the Big Brothers Big Sisters Board of Directors held meetings at his home while D’Amelio held his daughter.
In December, when she was 11 months old, D’Amelio received another call from Colacurcio. The news was his foster daughter’s biological parents were expecting another child. He thought he’d only have one child, but after doing a mental checklist, it took even less time to say yes.
The baby boy was born in January. He remembers the sister meeting her brother for the first time. They became a family.
“No matter how you have your children, you cannot imagine it otherwise,” D’Amelio said. “I can’t imagine having one child, and I can’t imagine not having my sweet little son. That’s our family. That’s who we are meant to be.”
Part of FamilyBuilders is foster parents and children meeting biological parents on supervised visits. D’Amelio got to know the parents, and will tell his children their story when the children are the right age. Through this process, D’Amelio started realizing he was ready to be their parent, while the biological parents were coming to understand that they weren’t. They wanted D’Amelio to raise them in the end.
“All I can say is it takes a lot of grace to accept that,” he said. When each child was around two, D’Amelio formally adopted them.
The family story has a twist. When the children were one and a half and two and a half, D’Amelio met Jeff, the man he would eventually marry. A common interest in parenting brought them together. Jeff eventually adopted the children.
“We say as our family motto is that God collected us in the right order,” D’Amelio said.
Now a decade after the journey began, the kids are healthy and the family is just that – a normal family complete with happiness and frustrations. D’Amelio is now the CEO of Washington STEM, an educational nonprofit in Seattle.
“I don’t think anybody does it better than Lutheran,” he said of the foster-adopt process. “The supervision, support and care that I got were just extraordinary. By extension, more important than me, the focus was the well being of the children. That’s the part that’s more important than me.”
If you or someone you know is interested being foster parents with the possibility of adoption, please contact our FamilyBuilders program at 206-694-5713 or firstname.lastname@example.org.