Arden Canecchia first thought about having a family when he met his now husband, Rich.
“As a gay man, I didn’t grow up thinking that getting married and having a family were in my cards,” said Arden. “Rich changed that for me.”
Twelve years after they met, the couple exchanged vows before family and friends in New Jersey. Then, they turned their attention to starting a family.
After considering all they could offer as parents, Arden and Rich agreed that they were interested in adopting children out of the foster care system. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there are more than 110,000 children in the U.S. waiting in foster care to be adopted, and the average wait can be as long as three years. More than 23,000 children age out of the system each year without ever finding a permanent home. The newlyweds knew they wanted to be part of the solution, so they submitted the paperwork and waited.
As days stretched into months with little progress, Arden became worried. But following a friend’s advice, Arden and Rich knew they needed to have faith in the system and trust that when it was meant to be, the call would come. And it did.
Soon after, Arden and Rich met brothers Jude and Jonny, and their foster mother, for dinner. It was over the meal that the couple realized, “These are our sons!”
On National Adoption Day 2016, an annual event that raises awareness of the children in foster care who need permanent homes, Arden and Rich made it official. Jude and Jonny were able to move in with their soon-to-be parents as a part of the pre-adoption process, helping ease their transition to a new home, school and neighborhood.
During this time, Arden took four months of parental leave – a benefit that Bank of America offers all new parents – allowing him to visit Jude and Jonny at school for lunch or library time, as well as pick them up after school each day.
In the first months, Jonny had a particularly difficult transition, preferring to eat lunch with the school nurse and vice principal rather than his peers. Arden’s parental leave allowed him to sit with Jonny at lunch and during class, and introduce him to new friends.
“This time is invaluable,” says Arden. “I was able to be present for my boys, helping them adjust to new environments, while teaching myself how to be a dad. Everything from meal planning to setting up their rooms was new, and I’m thankful for the time I was given to learn.”