The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Fighting for family

    Submitted photos

    A baking pie, a chore responsibility chart and a variety of photos hanging on the walls. Not the typical student housing one might expect. But it is the home for non-traditional student Missy Collins and her partner, Diane Schermann.

    Collins is a social work major planning on graduating in May, 2009. And that’s only the beginning of what she does.

    Besides school, she and Schermann are state certified foster parents, and Collins is pregnant with the couple’s first child, a boy, due April 13. They are also one of six couples involved in the Helgeland v. Wisconsin, in which they are suing the state for not allowing individuals to put their domestic partner on their health insurance.

    “Sometimes it’s hard, but it’s good,” Collins said. “You have to find a balance.”

    Story continues below advertisement

    Foster care
    Collins and Schermann met while playing softball nine years ago, Collins said.

    In July of 2005 they decided to “take their relationship to the next level,” Collins said. They held a civil union ceremony Sept. 25, 2004.

    The two decided to become foster parents, and received their licenses in March, 2005. Collins had also been a foster parent for seven years before that in Eau Claire County. Schermann had been in the foster care system as a child, and said that was part of her decision when going into foster care.

    Collins said she’s always wanted to be a foster parent.

    “I just like helping kids,” she said. “And there’s a lot of kids out there that need someone that’s going to be there, and be consistent, and a safe place to be.”

    The couple has cared for six foster children total. They said they prefer more long-term situations, and usually have older kids.

    “There’s a real demand for homes for teenagers,” Schermann said. “Most foster homes will take younger kids. But we want to have time to make an impact. Some kids are really behind in life skills and years behind in school.”

    Schermann and Collins also decided to become treatment foster care parents from county foster care. Treatment care is for children and is basically either the last step before kids go into the system like Eau Claire academy or group homes, or it’s the first step coming out of those places, Collins said.

    “Typically it’s associated with mental or behavioral issues,” Schermann said. “Typically they are going to be the ones that they don’t even want to place in regular homes because it would be disruptive.”

    Collins said once the children are in their home, they are always family. The two are already grandmas, Schermann said with a laugh.

    “With our foster kids, they still come back,” Collins said. “Once they’ve been in our house, they are part of our family. We have pictures all over our house of them, and they’re our kids.”

    Helgeland v. Wisconsin
    Collins and Schermann are part of an ongoing lawsuit with the state of Wisconsin. The lawsuit is through the American Civil Liberties Union, which was filed in April of 2005, Schermann said.

    Schermann, a state employee, said they are one of six couples involved in the case. It came about, she said, when she tried to put Collins on her health insurance policy. The state refused, stating it doesn’t offer insurance to same sex couples.

    “We’re considered a couple, we’re caring for the state of Wisconsin’s foster children, but we’re not a couple when it comes to health care benefits,” Schermann said, adding she was not discriminated against in the hiring process, as it is listed as something the state does not discriminate against along with disability, gender, race and ethnicity.

    “For disabled people or black people, they don’t define your family,” she said. “But they do when it comes to sexual orientation.”

    According to the ACLU’s Web site, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided on Feb. 7 that municipalities have no right to interfere in the lawsuit. This is an issue that has been holding up the case for nearly two years.

    The court, in a 4-3 decision, rejected the arguments of municipalities that they might be affected by the outcome, according to the Web site.

    Schermann said the state said it could not define what qualifies for a domestic couple, but that Collins can be on her dental insurance, since they have a specific policy.

    Schermann added she can put her foster children on the policy, and the premium that she pays stays the same, so it would not cost the state more if she were to add Collins to the policy.

    Collins and Schermann said they do not know for sure if Schermann can add the baby to the policy when he is born. Collins has drawn up papers to ensure the baby goes to Schermann if something happens to her. However, the papers need to be signed after a live birth.

    Collins said she isn’t worried about her family trying to take the baby if something happens to her.

    “I’m lucky,” she said. “My family loves Diane more than they love me.”

    “It’s a stereotype that gays and lesbians aren’t family orientated,” Schermann said. “For someone else to say we’re not family, what does that say to our children?”

    Baby on the way
    While the couple has two children in the house right now, they are also expecting their first baby in April. The couple said they wanted a child of their own in 2005, and tried unsuccessfully in the United States to conceive.

    Collins said the couple then did research to determine where the best place to have an in vitro fertilization procedure was, and where the highest success rates were.

    “We talked to our physician, and we decided to go to Buenos Aires, Argentina last summer,” Collins said.

    The couple went through a company called Plenitas, which Collins called a “host program” that connects patients to doctors. They connected the couple to Cegyr, a clinic in Buenos Aires. The price the couple paid to Plenitas included everything they needed: an interpreter, transportation to and from the airport, the hotel and the doctor’s appointments.

    “It cost us a lot less to have it done in Argentina than in the United States,” Collins said. “It was about a quarter of the cost, and that includes our plane tickets and everything else that we spent while we were there.”

    The clinic then connected Collins to Dr. Adán Nabel, who does the in vitro procedure in Buenos Aires.

    “He was just wonderful,” Collins said. “I couldn’t have picked a better place to go.”

    Collins had to be in Buenos Aires for a month, the entire length of her menstrual cycle. Schermann could only be there for eight days, because they had foster kids at home. Collins said sometimes it was hard to be on her own.

    Collins had to give herself hormone injections in the second or third week of her stay.

    “That was hard, I called from Argentina and I was talking to Diane and I was just bawling,” Collins said.

    As far as a sperm donor, Collins said they had to fill out a form on what they wanted in a donor.

    “It’s almost like order a mail order bride,” Collins said with a laugh. “Because you sit down and you choose the nationality that you want, the hair color that you want, and the eye color that you want, you choose all these things. And then you make a second choice in case you can’t get your first choice.”

    Collins said the donating requirements are stricter in Argentina. Donors are required to have blood tests for two- and- a- half years before they can donate. And even then they have to have a clean bill of health. In order to have the in vitro procedure in Argentina, they had to go through a donor bank. But Schermann said they want the child to know where he came from.

    “Even though we don’t know the biological father, it’s nice that he already has a heritage,” Schermann said. “We bought things in Argentina, we plan to go back. We plan on teaching him Spanish. There’s already so much to him, and he’s not even here yet.”

    Schermann arrived for the last few days of the procedure. Collins said they found out they were pregnant before they left Argentina, after the doctor did a blood test.

    “He (Dr. Nabel) came upstairs and he was getting ready to say ‘come into my office’ and he couldn’t wait,” Collins said. “He was making faces and shaking his hands because he was so excited.”

    Once home, the couple kept the news quiet because they were afraid of a miscarriage,” Schermann said.

    “50 to 60 percent of in vitro pregnancies don’t make it full term,” Schermann said. “We had about a 20 percent success rate, and this was all we could afford. We had one shot.”

    Collins said that now she is doing fine, and the baby is doing well. Schermann said that everyone has been supportive of the idea as well.

    “I’ve been really surprised how supportive Eau Claire is (with the baby),” Schermann said. “We’ve never encountered, at least not outward, discrimination.”

    Collins said she has made arrangements with her professors for when the baby comes. She only has classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so she is hoping that “the baby comes late Thursday night, and I can be back in class on Tuesday!”

    Collins said that after she finishes school at UW-Eau Claire, she is going to get her masters in Minnesota.

    “Our goal is to serve more kids,” she said. “More foster kids, or more in a transition house setting. We’ll always have kids in our family.”

    View Comments (1)
    More to Discover

    Comments (1)

    The Spectator intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. The Spectator does not allow anonymous comments and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
    All The Spectator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    • M

      MomAug 7, 2023 at 8:23 am

      Yeah she makes you fight your family that’s for sure

    Activate Search
    Fighting for family