Once rare, same-sex adoption is now becoming increasingly common in the United States, thanks to being effectively made legal in all 50 states in 2016. And though gay and lesbian parents are only raising four percent of the adopted children in the United States, an estimated two million LGBTQ+ people are interested in adoption. Those numbers are likely going to increase as more people continue to accept same-sex couples as parents. And while things have definitely gotten better, that doesn’t mean that same-sex adoption (like any other type of adoption) isn’t without challenges. Here’s what you need to know about the process of same-sex adoption to help you decide how to start a family.
The process of same-sex adoption
Unlike heterosexual couples, most same-sex couples don’t have the option to have their own biological children without some type of assisted reproductive technology or assistance, like surrogacy or in vitro fertilization. Per the Adoption Network, same-sex couples are four times more likely to turn to adoption in order to start a family than heterosexual couples. And though the adoption process is largely the same, same-sex couples may face an additional challenge in pursuing an open adoption, as some birth parents may decide that they would prefer to have their child raised by a heterosexual couple. In fact, according to Considering Adoption, less than one-fifth of adoption agencies are actively seeking same sex adoptive parents. In addition, it may also be harder for same-sex couples to adopt children internationally, as some countries have strict cultural or societal codes that do not yet accept same-sex couples as candidates to be adoptive parents. Hopefully birth parents and adoption agencies, both international and American, change their views soon so children may thrive and find a forever home with loving parents, no matter their sexual orientation.
To start with, same-sex parents looking to grow their family may want to seek out an LGBTQ+-friendly adoption agency. If you’re unsure where to start, contact a local LGBTQ+ community center in your area and ask for their input. Additionally, the Human Rights Campaign suggests looking into agencies you’re considering by asking the following questions:
- Does the agency’s mission statement mention the LGBTQ community?
- Does the agency’s client non-discrimination statement include the terms “sexual orientation” or “gender identity”?
- Does the agency use LGBTQ inclusive advertising images?
- Does the agency have LGBTQ inclusive paperwork?
The costs associated with same-sex adoption are similar to other forms of adoption and may range anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000, or more. Those costs cover legal fees for both the adoptive parents and birth parents, the home study, advertising, miscellaneous document fees, counseling, and any other expenses that might come up. That is a steep price to pay and many prospective parents drain their life savings or take out loans just to cover the cost. Luckily, organizations like HelpUsAdopt.org give out grants of up to $15,000 for deserving prospective parents, regardless of their ethnicity, religious affiliation, marital status, and sexual orientation.
What is a home study, exactly?
Home studies are an essential part in nearly all types of adoption so knowing exactly what will be expected of you and how you can prepare is important to completing one successfully. Unlike what you see in movies and TV shows, a home study is more than just a quick interview with a social worker in your living room.
In addition to home visits and interviews, a home study will require the adoptive parents to supply their health and income documentation. Perspective adoptive parents will also need to draft autobiographical statements painting their life story, essentially letting the social worker get to know them better. The home study also includes background checks for everyone over the age of 16 in the household. Prospective adoptive parents will also need to provide personal references letters from three or four family members and friends to why they will make perfect candidates for adoption.
Outcomes of same-sex adoption
Even though not everyone may be on board with same-sex adoptions, a study from the American Sociological Association found that children adopted by same-sex parents in the United States fared the same as children adopted by heterosexual couples in a range of ways, including academic performance, cognitive development, social development, psychological health, early sexual activity and substance abuse. Not only that, but a study out of the University of Southern California found that children raised by same-sex parents tend to be more tolerant and self-aware: not only do they communicate about their feelings more openly and show more empathy for those who are different, they are also not as bound by traditional gender roles.
Legally adopting a partner’s child
In some cases, one member of a same-sex couple already has a child, either through adopting on their own, or as a result of a previous relationship. And while their new partner may be their child’s parent for all intents and purposes, there are benefits to having them also legally adopt the child. This is done through a stepparent or second-parent adoption. According to Considering Adoption, going through this process is important for several reasons, including:
- To protect a child’s right to insurance and inheritance
- To be recognized as a child’s legal parent during school pickups, doctor’s appointments and other events
- To be able to obtain their medical records
Going through the adoption process may be time consuming and costly, but ultimately could save your family hassle and heartache if something were to happen to the child’s legal parent. It also helps provide stability and a secure and legal permanence to your family.