Adoption by Lesbians and Gays: A National Survey of Adoption Agency Policies, Practices, and Attitudes
Considerable controversy surrounds the issue of parenting by gays and lesbians, and it seems certain to escalate. It is a critical component of the debate over whether homosexuals should be permitted to marry, and it continues to divide policymakers in the United States – as well as in Canada and other countries – as they formulate laws and practices relating to workplace benefits, foster care, adoption, and an array of other important social and personal questions.
Even as these discussions proliferate on the legislative and rhetorical levels, however, reality on the ground is outstripping the pace of the debate. That is, a growing number of lesbians and gay men are becoming parents and are living as families every day, irrespective of what the policymakers do or say.
They are becoming mothers and fathers in many ways, but primarily through insemination, surrogacy and adoption. The latter alternative, which is becoming increasingly popular (though that fact is not generally publicized), provides critical insights into the cultural changes taking place in two major ways: demonstrating that the adoption of children by homosexuals is an ongoing, unabated practice; and showing that Americans’ attitudes are evolving – as reflected in the fact that more and more agencies are allowing openly gay and lesbian clients to adopt.
Solid research, to help inform and shape the dialogue, has been lacking. There have been studies, for example, finding that homosexuals’ parenting capacity and their children’s outcomes are comparable to those of heterosexuals. But little is known about two pivotal aspects of the process: What are adoption agency policies and practices toward prospective adoptive parents who are gay or lesbian? And to what extent are agencies placing children with homosexuals?
In an attempt to address these issues and to promote a more informed dialogue on this topic, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute – funded by a generous grant from the Rainbow Endowment – conducted a systematic, nationwide analysis of whether agencies work with lesbian and gay prospective adoptive parents, the extent to which agencies place children with them, and agency staff attitudes regarding adoption by homosexuals.
The most sweeping conclusion that comes out of the research is simply that adoption agencies are increasingly willing to place children with gay and lesbian adults and, consequently, a steadily escalating number of homosexuals are becoming adoptive parents.
Among the study’s principal specific findings are:
- Lesbians and gays are adopting regularly, in notable and growing numbers, at both public and private agencies nationwide.
- Assuming those responding are representative (and the results show they are), 60% of adoption agencies accept applications from homosexuals.
- About 2 in 5 of all agencies in the country have placed children with adoptive parents whom they know to be gay or lesbian.
- Most likely to place children with homosexuals are public, secular private, Jewish- and Lutheran-affiliated agencies, and those focusing on special needs and international adoption.
Reprinted with the permission of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. © 2007 Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. All rights reserved.
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