Easier By The Dozen: Steven And Roger Ham On Raising 12 Children

In the lead-up to the premiere of NBC’s The New Normal on September 11 Queerty is launching a new series of features, Our New Normal, where we’ll introduce you to LGBT families of all different stripes—same-sex couples raising kids, straight parents raising gay kids, close-knit LGBT communities who view each other as family.

And we want to meet your family, too: Share your story—whether you’re related by blood or linked by love—by uploading photos, videos or notes on our special Our New Normal platform. You could win a family vacation—not to mention bragging rights!




Steven and Roger Ham
Phoenix, AZ

Though they’re a same-sex couple raising a dozen kids, Steven and Roger Ham don’t see themselves as “gay” parents.

“We just happen to be two men who are raising 12 children,” says Steve during a rare quiet moment. “Our lives are pretty normal. It’s kind of all we’ve known for the last ten years. I wouldn’t say it’s anything unique or anything special.”

For Steven and Roger—who have helped rear more than 40 foster children over the last decade—parenting comes somewhat naturally. After all, their days are too packed to allow for much chaos:

The guys wake up at 5am, getting a full 15-minute head-start on their brood. (By September, Arizona schools have already been in session for more than two weeks.)

Before the first bus comes at 6:10, showers must be taken, outfits must be selected and breakfasts must be eaten. Once the young ones are on their way, Steven and Roger finally head to work.

At the end of the day, Steven picks up the kids from school, gets everyone fed dinner and then shuttles the kids to a myriad of extracurriculars–ballet, football, swimming, basketball, gymnastics, soccer, dance – before the Ham household finally settles down at about 9pm.

Parenting may come easy to the Hams, but becoming parents was a long and difficult journey: It was never their intention to adopt so when Roger and Steven moved to Arizona, where both marriage equality and gay adoption are banned—the couple was unprepared for the legal roadblocks ahead.

Showcasing the kind of can-do resilience they’d later need to raise 12 children, Steven and Roger soldiered on. Working through the foster-care system was the first step—ironically the state of Arizona went from not allowing them one child to asking them to care for dozens. Some were only temporarily visitors, others became permanent members of the family.

Were he and Roger to have “a ranch somewhere,” they’d have even more kids, Steven says with perhaps a hint of hesitation. But 12 is more than enough for now. After all, twelve kids means twelve mouths to feed, twelve backs to clothe and twelve college tuitions to pay for.

But, he counters, you can’t put a price tag on making a positive difference in 12 children’s lives. As he runs off to pick up the kids from school, Steven says, “I just know that parenting was what I was meant to do.” Then it’s back to family life—in all its everyday, beautiful normalcy.

Share your family’s story—whether you’re related by blood or linked by love—by uploading photos, videos or notes on our special Our New Normal platform. The best submission wins a family vacation, but the deadline to submit is September 12 at 1:59am—so don’t delay!

Photos: Steven Ham, Michael Chow/Arizona Republic

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  • Triple S

    You know, it’s great to see that these children have been given a good home to live in, but the one thing that can’t escape my mind, is how there is only so much a parent can do.

    They are effectively thinning the attention they can give across 12 kids. In the end, I really don’t see how each and every child can get the love they need in full when they have 11 other siblings demanding the same thing. There’s just too much that can go wrong to make this practicable.

  • tdx3fan

    There is a certain point where animals in a given home are considered part of a HOARDING situation and are removed from the home because of it. Its somewhere less than 12. If these were 12 cats, people would start to think the people were hoarders and show concern for the welfare of the cats.

    However, these are children, and these are actually children that most people do not give a flying rip about, or in Arizona, lets face it, they would never have been placed with a gay couple to begin with. Gaining national fame and notoriety because you have a problem with HOARDING children should really get you locked up not worshiped.

  • Dumdum

    @Triple S: I disagree.I think that growing up in an environment knowing that you are loved and cared for is more that a lot of kids get.And I will bet that the older kids help out with the younger ones.There obviously is a level of cooperation here that perhaps you have overlooked. We should all be so lucky.This family is totally awesome! Heck I’m happy if I come home and my Goldfish Herman is still alive!!!

  • hf2hvit

    And how many “so-called” christians adopt children just because they can and want to give them a home? I’ve know exactly ONE christian couple who did.

    Considering the hatred that spews out of the mouth of so-called christians, I guess we’re lucky.

  • tdx3fan

    @Dumdum: I think you need to look at this from the LONG term perspective. It has nothing to do with them being a gay family. It has to do with children not getting much needed care because the family is to large. Unless there is a GREAT deal of income it is VERY hard for everyone in a family of five or more to come out unscathed. Normally, the older kids do become like parents to the younger kids. That means that the older kids make decisions that affect both their own lives and the lives of the younger kids at ages that they most definitely should not be forced to make those decisions at.

    Also, there is a financial situation where the kids are not getting the things that they need or want when those things can not be bought or paid for because of a lack of financial stability. That financial stability normally requires one or more likely BOTH of the parents to work full time jobs outside of the home and that means they have very little time for the children.

    My aunt was the oldest girl out of five kids. She quit school at 13 to stay home and be the mother to the other children because both of her parents worked 60+ hours a week in order to support the needs of their children, and that was in the 1960s when paying for your kids college was unheard of unless you were very wealthy.

    Its just not financially or emotionally responsible to have more than two children in this current system.

  • RomanHans

    Is the new commenting system working here? Seems like vast commenting idiocy has been winnowed down to just tdx3fan.

  • Justin

    Wow, that raising 12 kids is anyone’s normal is pretty impressive. Great job by these guys, what a gift to each of these 12 kids to be raised by such dedicated and loving parents.

  • PrettyLittleLiar

    @tdx3fan, @dumdum
    I grew up in a large family like this one and have had discussions with my siblings (and a few cousins) about how it was growing up in a house with 10-15 children. I have to tell you, it’s not like hording children, or neglecting one or two children for the other. It really was like growing up in a house crowded with people, and love. And there was more love, and laughs, and good times than you can ever know. There was always a sense of security and protection. If your parents instill the right values in each child this task of raising a large family is a little bit easier.

    Also, in a family this large you wonder if the children are getting attention from parents and we did have to split time between parents, but we also had grandparents, aunts, uncles, extended family. There was plenty of positive contact with adults. This family will be fine, and these children will grow up to be as wonderful as their dads.

  • alterego1980

    @tdx3fan: It seems to me that you are confusing the issues you mention as problems only a large family will endure. This just is not true. Families with two children have similar problems. Same with single parent households with more than one child. If both parents are working at fat food joints making around minimum wage, they will have financial problems with 1 child, let alone 12. The point is that the article above, which is all you and I have to judge these two men by, relates a busy but loving and fulfilling life. It’s about what parents they decide to be. not how many children the have.

  • tobyg1

    An important point is that these are all children who needed homes – real, permanent homes- and now they have one. Even if it may be a bit crowded it is a whole lot better than being shunted around the foster system or placed in an institution. While time may be finite, love is not – there is always plenty to go around if the people are loving, as this family certainly seems to be. A friend of mine has so far single parented seven foster kids, two of which became legally adopted by him and one of them has now almost completed college. He isn’t rich but he has a home to share and a great deal of love. My partner and I have 5 informally adopted sons, all now graduated from college and one who lives with us who is still in college. Yes, they take a lot of time but it is time so well spent, so full of happiness, that we are greatly enriched by it and by sharing life with them. Of course there has been drama and expense – that’s to be expected – but in the coping with it we grow stronger and better. We are fortunate to have resources sufficient for most needs. Not to share them would be criminal in a time when thousands of children, especially LGBT children, are cast out and homeless.

  • Tad

    Beautiful. I am at a loss for additional words.

  • Aaron

    I can’t believe all the critical comments on this posting. These children needed a home, these men provided them with one. You have no perspective with which to judge their parenting skills, and I could remind you that for approximately 99,950 years of human society, huge families with lots of kids, older ones raising younger, WAS the norm. It’s only in the last 50 years or so that “normal” means 2.5 children, home in suburbs.

  • Tone

    They’re doing a wonderful thing for those kids. They must have the patience of saints. They deserve to be rewarded for such kindness.

  • defused73

    I think it’s great this couple has so much love for children. But, gay or straight, children are not Pokemon.

  • Ruhlmann

    @tdx3fan: My father’s family had thirteen kids and my mother’s family had twelve. For many years this was the case in all families. I came from a family of six boys and in Québec that’s a small family. Comparing this family to hoarded cats is repulsive on every human level I can think of.

  • Paul

    @Triple S: That’s a ridiculous statement. LOVE doesn’t come in limited supply containers. Ask anyone who came from a large family and see if they felt neglected or under appreciated. I think you’ll find that, like the Universe, Love is limitless and constantly expanding.

Comments are closed.