How many of us can say a single social media post changed our lives? That’s exactly what happened for Ross Katzman, 56, of Burlington, Wisconsin.
Shortly after the New Year 2015, Ross saw a Facebook post by a friend who works in child welfare at SaintA. She was sharing with her close circle of friends and family the story of a young boy, referred to only as J.T., who was in need of permanency.
Ross and Sara, the case manager, took the conversation offline where she was able to share more of the boy’s history and explain that while Josh (his real name) had other placements, none of them were just the right fit for a forever home.
Soon, Ross was meeting Josh, who was 7 years old at the time, and filing paperwork to become a licensed, child-specific foster parent. They began to have visits and during the getting-to-know-each-other phase, it became clear both of their lives were about to be changed forever.
Facebook Gave Them A New Chapter
“Little did I know a Facebook post was going to produce so many new beginnings for me,” says Ross. “But looking back, I think a lot of my life experiences were leading me to this moment.”
Ross grew up in a highly successful farm family, commandeered by his father, an entrepreneurial spirit, who founded Burlington Implement as well as a storage business and a trucking operation. “I credit my dad and my mom with giving me sound values and for working so hard back then, which has put me in a position where I can be a good provider for Josh now,” says Ross.
When he was younger, Ross struggled with his sexuality, especially growing up in a small town with really no LGBT community for support. “There were some difficult times for me, and even though Josh’s circumstances are completely different, he’s had hardships too. I think both of our pasts have prepared us for where we are now,” says Ross.
One of the most striking things about Ross and Josh is how similar they look. “People are amazed at how much he looks like he could be my biological child,” says Ross. “And that’s only part of how the stars aligned for us. We also have the same birthday, May 24.” Shared birthdates are important to Ross, whose own father and grandfather also shared a birth date, March 11. “There’s some symbolism of father and son sharing a birthday,” he says.
In addition, Josh just naturally seems to fit in with Ross’s life. “Josh has strong values, he’s sensitive and compassionate and he is even spiritual like me. But I can’t take credit for most of that; his parents and previous foster parents all shaped him up until this point.”
Josh is well aware of his life before foster care – it’s all documented in a scrap book his sister Kayla made as a way for him to remember his parents. Josh is still in regular contact with Kayla, who lives in Colorado now. “He skypes with his sister and we have pictures of his mom and dad in his room,” says Ross.
As Ross shares the story of how Josh came to be his son, the now 9-year old plays with superhero figurines in the other room. Spiderman, is hands-down, his favorite – he even has a Super Hero Blue room to match.
Relationship Status Doesn’t Matter
As a single gay man Ross isn’t always sure of his parenting skills and sometimes wishes he had a partner to consult with about big life decisions. Josh is active in Boy Scouts, baseball and 4H in addition to being involved with Ross’s favorite charities, like One Step at a Time Camp in Lake Geneva and the Love, Inc. thrift store in Burlington.
“My father’s advice was to always ‘do whatever makes you happy,’” says Ross. “He was very affirming of who I was.”
After knowing Josh for about a year and a half, the adoption became official just before Father’s Day this past June. “That was my first official Father’s Day and it came just shortly after the adoption was finalized on May 25, 2016,” explains Ross. “My name is listed under ‘Father’ on his birth certificate now, so it’s very official.”
If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, please email GrowHope@SaintA.org, or call 855.Grow.Hope to talk to a community engagement specialist.