PHOTOGRAPHED BY RACHEL TURAN IN BAYVILLE, NEW JERSEY
The Conway-Child's home is nestled among a development’s curving roads in the ocean town of Bayville, New Jersey. The streets surrounding the warm and welcoming home are the territory of the mass of neighborhood kids, riding by daily on bicycles and shooting baskets into street-side nets. At middle-age, Craig Conway and Edward Childs expected they’d have to move to escape the neighborhood noise until they met Aiden and set off down an unlikely path.
At age five, Aiden had already been in five different resource homes.
Craig, a retired law enforcement officer who spent many years working in the prison system, had become a counselor in his retirement, intending to work with a few children. However his passion got the best of him, and he never had fewer than 20 children on his caseload.
Craig met Aiden while working with Aiden’s foster sister. When Craig was over, Aiden sometimes heard his foster sister speaking badly to Craig. Aiden would tell her, “It’s not nice to speak to your counselor that way!” Craig was drawn to Aiden’s kindness and compassion from the start. While counseling Aiden’s foster sister, Craig found out that Aiden wasn’t going to be able to return to his birth mother, and that the then five-year-old would be looking at being adopted.
Meanwhile, Craig and Edward were living in Bayville, New Jersey. They were the first couple to apply for domestic partnership in the City, back in 2004. When Craig heard of Aiden’s need to be adopted, Craig’s partner Edward was going back to school to become a counselor. Between Edward’s work and schooling and Craig’s caseload, it was a hectic time for the couple. They hoped once Edward was out of school they would move into a retirement community together.
Even though they were so busy, Craig asked Edward if he would like to meet Aiden. Edward was hesitant at first, with working and going to school being so stressful and time consuming. But he agreed to meet Aiden.
Aiden was sweet but quiet, Craig said. It wouldn’t be until later that Aiden would grow into his personality, marked by his eagerness to explain things and his vivid imagination.
After the meeting, Craig asked Edward what he thought about adopting. Edward responded with a firm and definite “no.” He was too stressed, it would be too much.
But a few hours later, Edward found himself in tears, wondering what would happen to Aiden. He returned to Craig, eyes welling up, and said he wanted Aiden in their life.
Craig and Edward decided, eagerly, to adopt Aiden. Aiden moved into their home as a foster child on his seventh birthday, July 15th 2016. He was adopted in April 2017.
Craig and Edward’s life together was altered entirely, for the better. While they used to drink expensive wine and treat each other to fancy dinners, they now find themselves happily watching cartoons like Naruto on the couch with Aiden on Friday nights.
For New Years, Craig and Edward used to go out in New York or watch fireworks. Now the trio has a new tradition of traveling to rural Lancaster, Pennsylvania where loud fireworks won’t overwhelm Aiden, who experiences sensory overwhelm in the presence of loud noises and bright lights.
Craig and Edward feel incredibly lucky to have had the privilege to shape their lives around Aiden’s needs. They believe that Aiden found them, that he was meant to be a part of their family. And Aiden feels right at home with his compassionate and understanding dads.