In February of last year, The Williams Institute released research estimating that 16,000 same-sex couples are raising more than 22,000 adopted children in the United States. Adoption has its difficulties as is, but gay and lesbian couples or singles face some unique challenges. Private and government organizations are making strides to ensure that adoption policies are fair, no matter what your sexual orientation is. If you decide to adopt, the following are some helpful tips to keep in mind.
- Find the best fit for your adoption. There are many options with adoption to consider before deciding which to pursue. First you should decide whether you want to go through private or public adoption. Next, are you thinking about adopting an infant or older child? This could determine which form of adoption, private or public, you would like to pursue. Third, you must ask yourself and your partner if you feel willing and able to adopt transracially or if you prefer to adopt a child that is of the same race? Finally, you must decide if you would like an open or closed adoption. If you choose open, how open would you prefer your contact with the birth family to be?
- Learn the laws. First you must find out if it is legal in your state for same-sex couples to adopt. Each state differs in their policies for same-sex adoption; The laws can also vary by county. There are laws which allow ‘second-parent adoption,’ a way for a second parent to adopt a child without the ‘first parent’ losing any parental rights. The laws for second-parent adoption vary by state. States which do not allow joint or second-parent adoption could leave couples in a tricky spot because the parent without legal rights could suffer harsh consequences if the partners were to separate. You can research your state’s laws at Lambdalegal.org.
- Consider your relationships & community. Adopting a child requires support and in the case of same-sex adoptions when adversity is unfortunately still present, it is crucial that your community and relationships are accepting of you as a couple before you bring another human into your world. Make sure that your relationships and the level of acceptance at work, with co-workers and employers, as well as neighbors, family and friends are comfortable. Look at your town and school districts as well – if you are not comfortable in your environment, it might be a good time to look into moving to an area which is accepting of your partnership & family.
- Find ‘Gay-Friendly’ adoption agencies. A good place to start when looking for a Gay-Friendly adoption agency is the Human Rights Campaign’s website. (http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/all-children-all-families-list-of-participating-agencies) The HRC has a list of agencies that have achieved their ‘All Children – All Families’ benchmarks of LGBT Cultural Competency. Another way to check if an agency is ‘gay-friendly’ is to read their mission statement for an explicit antidiscrimination clause about placing children with same-sex couples. The best way to find out about a local agency is to ask for recommendations within the LGBT community.
- Get together with a support community. Getting support from a group of like-minded individuals can be very beneficial for same-sex couples looking to adopt. The adoption process and post-adoption placement can be overwhelming. Having a support system made up of individuals who have been through the process before can be very helpful. You can check for support groups run by local adoption agencies, LGBT advocacy groups, and fertility clinics. Support groups and events for your children when they get older can also be very beneficial. You should also consider joining a support group that includes same-sex couples with children so that your child knows that he or she is not the only one who has two moms or two dads and has other families to identify with.
As you can see, there are many things to consider when you decide to adopt as an LGBT couple. We hope that these tips are helpful for you and your partner in the beginning steps of starting your family. We wish you the best of luck on your journey!