Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: "Melissa in Sacramento" wrote that an 11-year-old was not articulate enough to have written the letter you published about his happiness as an adopted son of two fathers.

Her letter was an insult to the many children who are capable of achieving beyond the low expectations of many adults.

When my 15-year-old son was 11, his vocabulary, reading, writing and analytical skills tested out at college sophomore levels. This past school year, he took several college courses and aced them all. My son is no genius, but we care enough about his education to put it first.

None of our children fail to keep up with their homework. We read to them every night until they were at least 12 years old. We still insist that they read every day. We limit television to three hours a week, while providing them with access to bookstores and libraries.

If more parents insisted on high standards in the schools and by teachers, and maintained those same standards at home, more children would be as articulate as that 11-year-old boy. -- PENNY IN VIRGINIA

DEAR PENNY: I agree that some students far exceed the norm, as your children do. And the ones who do have parents who are actively involved in their schooling, which reinforces the importance of education.

"Melissa in Sacramento's" letter stimulated some strong responses from people who took exception. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: When I read the letter signed "Melissa in Sacramento," I was furious. Perhaps in Sacramento an 11-year-old student could not have written as well as the boy who expressed his happiness at being the adopted son of two fathers. However, my 11-year-old sister is capable of writing such a letter, as are many other children of that age whom I know.

I also was taken aback that Melissa called the boy's letter "whiny." If any letter was whiny, it was hers!

I applaud any two loving parents, heterosexual or homosexual, who teach their child the loving, caring, open-minded values this world needs to survive. Melissa could learn a lesson or two from "Happily Adopted in Orlando, Fla." and his parents.

I wonder if Melissa is struggling with her own homophobia. Her letter appeared to reflect the anti-gay movement sweeping our country. I hope she has not taught those hurtful, narrow-minded, prejudiced values to the fifth- and sixth-grade students with whom she works. -- STRAIGHT BUT NOT NARROW IN COLORADO

DEAR STRAIGHT: So do I. When we finally learn to accept diversity and be less judgmental when dealing with others, ours will be a much more unified country.

DEAR ABBY: You have undoubtedly received many letters about the 11-year-old boy who was adopted by a gay man and is now living with two dads.

Well, here's one more:

Five years ago I adopted an 8-year-old special-needs child after the system had given up on him. The caseworkers considered him unadoptable, but I fell in love with him in the first five minutes and I've never faltered in my commitment to him. When I told him I wanted to adopt him, he was the happiest kid I'd ever seen. He had believed he would never have a family. When I told him I was gay, he said it didn't matter to him -- as long as I was nice.

Since then, my son has become a bright, affectionate 13-year-old, and I take a great deal of pride and joy in watching him grow toward manhood. Our adoption was finalized 2 1/2 years ago and all our relatives showed up to make it a very special day. We know how precious family is.

There are many older children and special-needs children in the system who will never be adopted due to a critical shortage of qualified adoptive parents. In the past 10 years, there have been more than 100,000 adoptions by qualified gay men and lesbians. Each and every one of these adoptions is an opportunity for a child to have a loving family. We should applaud these parents for the difference they make. I know. -- LUCKY FATHER IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR LUCKY FATHER: May I lead the applause? You have said it very well, and your dedication is praiseworthy. All good wishes to you and to your son.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600