Jessica Butler is the creator of Raise, stepmother of two, and adoptive mother of one. Prior to Raise, she was a writer on USA’s In Plain Sight and TNT’s The Last Ship. She and her husband, writer/producer Warren Bell, co-created the Nick at Nite series Instant Mom, based on her life as a stepmother. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and six-year-old son, Levon.
"My goal is to create the resource and community I wish I had when I was new to stepparenting and adoption."
Your family is untraditional, to say the least.
Yes. I’m 39, my husband is 58. My mother is 60. I’m closer in age to my stepsons than I am to my husband. And my extended family includes my youngest son’s birth grandparents.
Before creating Raise, you sold a TV show based on your experiences as a stepmother.
The pilot was my first effort to create a public forum for stepmothers. There is no What To Expect When You’re Expecting Stepchildren. Celebrating stepmothers is seen by some as disrespectful to a child’s primary mother, but I disagree. My love for my stepsons is in addition to — not in place of or in competition with — their mother’s love.
In 2014, you adopted your son, Levon, and recently bought a second home in Arizona, near his birth grandparents.
We’ll buy a house next to anyone who promises free babysitting.
Los Angeles is our primary home, but we visit Tucson as often as possible, usually over holidays and long weekends. We love the desert.
You’re an advocate of open adoption, meaning you support adoptive families having contact with birth families.
How is Raise different from other parenting sites?
Motherhood is evolving, but the dialogue is not. Mainstream media is still created with traditional, biological mothers in mind. Raise is devoted to non-traditional families; stories of stepparenting, adoption, foster care, surrogacy, single parenting, mixed-race families, raising relatives and family friends. One out of every 10 children in America lives with a non-biological parent.*
One in 10.
And that statistic is low. The census does not account for children being raised by foster parents, non-family members, or relatives other than grandparents.
The name “Raise” obviously refers to raising children, but it’s also a call to raise the conversation. It’s time to redefine the ideal family structure.”
*According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, 4.6 million children under the age of 18 live with a stepparent. 1.5 million children are adopted, and 3.6 million are being raised by a grandparent.