The LGBT Community and Adoption

When it comes to the civil rights of the LGBT community, there has been progress in some places and none in others.  For same-sex couples and gay singles who are hoping to become parents through adoption, one of the most frustrating areas of “no progress” has been in the realm of international adoption.

Many of the countries that have a need for international adoption don’t recognize the rights of gay individuals in their own society, and this is clearly reflected in their adoption policies.  Despite overwhelming numbers of children living in orphanages, birth countries have not opened their eligibility to gay couples and singles.  Some countries even go to extreme lengths to prevent gay individuals from adopting; one popular program requires every unmarried applicant to sign a notarized affidavit stating that they are not gay. TV shows like Modern Family that features Cam & Mitchell’s adoption from Vietnam is a lovely idea, but actually has no basis in reality and distorts the possibilities that gay families have in current international adoption practice.LGBT Domestic Adoption

As an agency that supports the rights of gay families to adopt, we struggle with the requirements imposed upon us, and are often challenged by prospective families to explain how we can support programs that discriminate against applicants in this way.  While we continuously explore potential programs that would be open to a more diverse pool of families, our mission is to find adoptive homes for children who need families, and we must respect each country’s right to set their own criteria, while clearly communicating those criteria to our community so they can make the best decisions for their family. We credit our long lasting relationships with many placing countries on our dedicated adherence to their eligibility requirements, even those we don’t agree with and in this way we have successfully found loving homes for more than 20,000 children.

We hope and work towards the goal that international adoption may one day be an option for same-sex couples and gay singles.  We have spent years and will continue to research program development opportunities where gay families may be able to adopt the children who need families.  In the meantime, we have always placed and continue to place children through domestic adoption with a broad range of families, including same-sex couples and gay singles.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss our domestic programs with gay families, which range from a traditional full-service agency program, to independent private adoptions, to foster care/adoption counseling and LGBT support groups.  We are here to support families in their quest to become parents as we seek loving, stable homes for all children who need families.

Obama’s for Same-Sex Marriage, but what’s next?

Almost two weeks ago, President Obama shared his firm position on Same-Sex Marriage in America. He’s for it.

A number of publications lauded his efforts to take a clear stance on the hot-button issue, but once his statement was made, many questions followed. How and when will the rest of country follow suit with the president’s perspective? What protections and rights will same-sex couples have as opposed to married couples?  Must we signify a difference between same-sex marriages and heterosexual ones?

Of course, at Spence-Chapin we’re wondering what this means for our LGBT couples who want to adopt children.

Less than a year ago, New York State passed the Marriage Equality Act to legalize same-sex marriages within the state. New Jersey has granted Civil Unions to same-sex couples since 2006, granting them the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples while still reserving title of “marriage.”  As the way of LGBT Marriage, the tolerance of LGBT adoption is also considered a State’s right, allowing any state in the union the power to ban LGBT couples from adopting.

Thankfully, New York and New Jersey are not among those states against LGBT adoption, and, in fact, both states make it explicitly legal in their constitutions. (States that ban LGBT adoption: Utah, Alabama, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio) However, there are still children around the nation, and the globe, who cannot be adopted by loving parents simply because of sexual orientation.

In 2007 the Williams Institute reported that only 65,000 children have been adopted by same-sex couples, yet an Urban Institute report claims that almost 2 million LGBT couples are interested in adopting. 2 million couples! Imagine all of the loving homes that could be provided for children in need.

Yet, that isn’t the reality, and prejudices that keep capable, loving couples from adopting still exist. But here’s the truth of the matter: after factoring in data on education, employment, home-ownership, and residential stability from the 2000 census, federal reporters concluded “same-sex couples present many of the positive qualities that would create a suitable home for children in need of being adopted. …review of past research finds no notable differences between children in heterosexual parent households and those in lesbian and gay parent households.” Clearly, many couples have the desire and the capability to properly care for children who need them; yet restrictive laws still remain for the sake of state’s rights and intolerance.

Over America’s 235-year history, we’ve battled different forms of discrimination many times in many different ways. However, one thing has remained the same; we’ve always come out the better for it. Americans ended slavery, gained women’s suffrage, protected laborers, legalized interracial marriages, and so much more. Why would we ever want to step backwards?

So what do you think? Do LGBT couples need federal protections? Was Obama’s statement effective? What’s next for LGBT families?