Dean Speaking On:
I’d Like You to Know
Identity and Awareness
Mentoring and Support
Spirituality and Religion
Spokane in Perspective
When I first came to Spokane in the fall of ‘73, I was doing my internship with Lutheran Social Services. Lutheran had licensed the first single, male foster parent in Spokane. I supervised that home as a student. I became close to the foster parent, [Greg Nebeker].
My friend Greg, who had developed the foster home, moved onto the South Hill and to a larger facility. I helped get [that house] licensed as a group home. I eventually moved into that facility. We ran it together.
I told Greg about my orientation, because I didn’t want it to come back on him. You know, working with youth, and in that environment where we lived in the same house. I wanted to make sure that he could deal with the repercussions. From that time on I have always been out with my supervisors, when I thought there were potential ramifications and they needed to know in advance.[Later, Greg] moved out, started another foster [home], and I continued on as the director for a few years, prior to my moving out. Four of the boys who were with me at that time moved into the house that I just bought, to be licensed as a single foster parent. [I worked] four years as a [single] foster parent. I had seven [kids] that lived with me [in my house. But] there were a lot of kids who lived in the home with me when it was a group home; we were licensed [for boys age 6 to 17]. That was one of the reasons why I wanted to move out. I wanted more stability. We tried to operate the group home as a family. You can do that, following the principles of a family, but you’re always dealing with someone coming and going. I needed more stability.
The state requirement was that kids should only be in group care, for [a maximum of] 18 months. Some of the boys were pushing that 18 months and they didn’t have any place to go. They didn’t have families to go to. They needed to go into a less intense environment than a group home, which would be foster care. It just made sense. I was ready to move, and they needed a place. At that time it worked.
***[Michael and I discussed having our own children.] I did have a friend who was in position and would have, if we’d asked, helped us adopt. That could have happened.
I think there were multiple levels that led to the decision not to. I would say that probably the dominating issue was, “Is the relationship going to last?” [Early on,] there were few to no role models for committed gay relationships that I was aware of. Obviously, we’ve mentioned Gene [Otto] and Ted [Clark]: they’ve been together 10 years longer than we have. Then there was Bob and Bob who were [together] 10 years more than Gene and Ted. But those were the exceptions, and I had a real strong belief about the advantage of two parents raising a child. But I’d also been a single foster parent, so I’d had a lot of experience in dealing with disturbed children.
So, the early years [of our relationship], when [having children] would’ve made most sense, there’s the question about, you know, “Is this still a phase? Is this for real, or is this still just a phase you’re going through? Is this relationship going to work? Is it going to last?” You know, [Michael and I are] so different, and yet we have such similarities. “Could we, should we, be parents with those differences that we have? Would that be fair to bring a child into that environment with some uncertainty?” Then, as we got older, it moved to, “Gosh! I’d be 60 when a kid graduated from high school. What kind of a parent would I be, [as a] 40-year-old parenting an infant?” There were some practical things about that.
And we couldn’t marry. If we were allowed or able to marry back then, we might’ve gone through that [conversation about our commitment]. “Oh! Marriage is a pretty big, important deal. Yes, let’s. We’re getting married. Okay. Well, we’re getting married, that means we are truly, literally committing to this life, to the next 40 years, or whatever it’s going to be.” That may have allowed us to make a different decision about kids, because it potentially would’ve sped up some of that growing up, growing together, and knowing who we are. That could’ve sped that process up to the point where we might’ve made a different decision. But that wasn’t an option then.
You get into your life, and taking on a responsibility for another human being is a huge, major commitment that one should not take lightly. I think that, at one point in time, we kept saying, “No, because this,” or “No, because of that.” [We] just realized that it would be a significant change in our lifestyle, [in] what we did. We were getting older. All these [reasons] together . . . We just finally came to the acceptance that this was not the right thing for us this time around.
I periodically toy with being a foster parent. But, you know, that may be more just romanticizing of an earlier time in my life than reality.
Sources: Two interviews with Maureen Nickerson [c. 2007]; transcribed by K. M. and Laura S. Hodgman; edited by Maureen Nickerson and Laura S. Hodgman; held in the Northwest Museum for Arts and Culture. Interviews with Laura S. Hodgman on 25 July 2013 and 12 September 2013.