Megan and Shana poured over dozens of pictures of children who lived in foster care thousands of miles away, in Texas, with no luck. They couldn't connect with any of them. Then, they found Jax.
Shana Carignan, 29, and Megan Parker, 33, met through a mutual friend in Shana's hometown of Greensboro in 2008. They fell in love and celebrated their commitment in a ceremony on Sept. 12, 2010. They wanted children, so they began the adoption process early, assuming it would take years to finalize. Megan had already been caring for Mary, an adult with special needs, through a foster program that keeps older people with disabilities out of retirement homes or institutions. With little experience taking care of people with disabilities, Shana began volunteering at special-needs schools and programs.
"When we started dating, we fell into that family role," Shana said. "It matured our relationship much faster because we shared a lot of responsibility."
Megan and Shana knew they'd eventually want to bring home a special kid of their own.
The pair went through an adoption program out of Raleigh, "the first that would call us back," Shana said. Their case worker recommended they look for a child in Texas, a state somewhat friendly toward gay couples looking to adopt. "Some states make you sign statements that you're straight," Shana said. The couple sped through the necessary classes and, because of their background and commitment to those with special needs, came highly recommended by their case worker. They found out they were chosen in November 2010 and in January flew to Houston to meet Jax. They brought him home in March, six months after they began the adoption process.
Shana and Megan both pick Jax up from school. They both feed him and bathe him and make him laugh and hold him when he cries. Both of their incomes go toward raising him. But legally, Shana is not Jax's mother.
If Amendment One passes, Jax could be taken away from Shana if Megan passes away or if she's deemed an unfit parent. It would prohibit Shana from making medical decisions for Jax, who has, among other special needs, cerebral palsy. Even if Megan left Shana their home in her will, the state could take it away, too.
Shana had a chilling brush with the already unfriendly laws of North Carolina when Megan, who suffers from brain abnormalities, had a stroke in November. Doctors barely gave Shana updates, she said. When Megan's mother arrived, they informed her of every detail.
"It's not even what the law says I am," Shana said. "It's what the law says I'm not."