The parents of an 11-year-old girl in upper Montgomery County, Md., said they are disappointed and hurt after they received sharp criticism on an article in a popular girls magazine about their daughter, their family and their charity work to help foster children.
Rob and Reece Scheer of Darnestown, two white gay men, adopted Amaya and three boys — all of whom are African American and had been in foster care — several years ago and were recently featured in a magazine run by the huge toy chain Mattel and its popular dolls, called “American Girl.” In the article, Amaya tells of how she and her brother came to the Scheers in 2009 with their belongings in two trash bags. It was their third foster home in four months. The Scheers went on to adopt two other kids who are brothers — Greyson, who is now 8, and Tristan, now 6.
The article, by an adult writer for the magazine, is written through Amaya’s perspective. In it, Amaya promotes the charity one of her dads — Rob — started several years ago, called Comfort Cases, which provides backpacks filled with pajamas, toothbrushes, blankets, stuffed animals and other items for foster kids. The group has gone from providing about 300 kits in 2013 to donating 7,000 to kids in the District, Maryland and Virginia foster care systems last year.
After the recent article in American Girl came out and showed a photo spread of Amaya with her family, her parents said they got a call Friday from a family friend saying there was online criticism from a group called One Million Moms. The group said it is an online project of the American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Miss.
On their Web site, the group criticized the article, saying it should have focused “on the child and not about the parents since it is a magazine for children.” It went on: “The magazine also could have chosen another child to write about and remained neutral in the culture war.” The post goes on to say the magazine is trying to “desensitize our youth by featuring a family with two dads” and it calls homosexuality wrong. It also encourages subscribers to cancel the magazine.
NBC 4 first reported the story on Amaya and her article in American Girl magazine.
Rob Scheer, who is a former foster kid who grew up in the Manassas area, said he was saddened at first to see the reaction but then heartened by the positive support he and his family received from friends and others.
“I don’t live in a plastic bubble,” Scheer said. “I am a gay man and I have four African American kids. I understand people out there are ugly. But I didn’t expect a group of moms to say we are sinners.” He said the family also received several unflattering calls to their home.
“How could somebody hate us so much in their heart by looking at our kids?” he asked of the response from the One Million Moms groups. “That’s what shocked me.”
Scheer said the article in American Girl came about after a writer for the magazine heard him speak at an event about adopting kids and the charity he helped start. The writer approached and asked about spending time with Amaya and her family. Scheer said his daughter isn’t a huge American Girl fan and actually only has one of the dolls and some accessories.
In the article, Amaya tells of how she likes to play soccer and basketball and of her experiences as a foster child and how she enjoys helping donate items for kids in foster care through the charity, Comfort Cases.
She said in the article, “Sometimes we include blankets that we make,” of the group’s efforts to put together care bags for foster kids. “The blankets help the kids feel warm. I remember when I was in foster care, the blankets we had were all torn up. There wasn’t enough money to buy new ones.”
Scheer said the comments from the One Million Moms group missed the point. He said the article was “not about two gay men.”
“It’s about kids in foster care that are carrying trash bags with their belongings,” he said. “That’s not acceptable.”
Calls and an e-mail to One Million Moms and American Family Association were not immediately returned.
At American Girl, Julie Parks — a spokeswoman for the company — said they were “disappointed” by the reaction One Million Moms had to the piece on Amaya. The story, she said, was meant to “shine a spotlight on a girl who is making a difference.”
“We have no agenda with the article other than to shine a spotlight on Amaya.”
Scheer said he hopes the attention his daughter and the charity has received from the article and the reaction it generated will help the group expand its reach across the country. They have plans to open a similar program this year in the Detroit area.
Scheer said he was especially surprised that the moms’ group had that reaction to the story because he said he sees moms as people who give unconditional love to children.
“I look at a woman and see someone who has given so much love to bring a child into this world,” he said. “How could that same person look at these four children and say they don’t deserve that unconditional love?”
He said he would rather see the focus not be on negative opinions on what some people may consider as a “traditional family” should be but instead challenge people to “go out and adopt all these kids who need a home.”