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Same-sex Couples and Adoption

Same-sex Couples and Adoption

Same-sex couples are raising more adopted children than heterosexual couples, in the United States. Studies show that same-sex couples are seven times more likely than straight couples to be raising an adopted or foster child. They are also more likely to take in older, special needs and minority children

Research points to the change being aided by the increase in the number of gay and lesbian biological parents in the U.S. As same-sex couples are becoming more visible in the society today, they are more and more being considered as potential adoptive parents. 

Across the U.S, there were about 443,000 children in foster care in 2017, according to a Department of Health and Human Services report published in the same year. While around 50,000 children are adopted through the child welfare system each year, 20,000 others “age out” before being placed with an adoptive family, the department reports. In 2005 alone, 114,000 children were waiting to be adopted. 

The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997, has largely contributed in the placements of children to permanent homes. Right after the Act, there was a significant increase in adoptions and the number of adoptions out of foster care has been on the steady increase. However, states seeking adoptive homes for children in foster care report that the biggest hurdle is in finding interested and able families to adopt. The solution for state and federal governments has been to recruit adoptive families.

Since roughly 60 percent of all adoptions of children in foster care in 2015 were by their foster parents, you would think that because same-sex couples constitute a larger percentage of foster parents, then it is easier for them to adopt. Well, not quite. 

Even though a 2015 landmark Supreme Court decision made same-sex marriage legal across the U.S and also made it legal for married same-sex couples to foster and adopt in every state, religious exemption laws make it difficult. Same-sex couples trying to adopt have since learnt that both legal and cultural impediments still exist.

Of the 50 states that have legalized same-sex adoption, 11 of those states now permit state-licensed welfare agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples if doing so conflicts with the agency’s religious or moral beliefs. Other states are also considering similar measures. Some states also require that a same-sex couple is in a legally-recognized relationship in order to adopt.  The Supreme Court will soon hear a dispute between the city of Philadelphia and a Catholic charity, who refused to place adoptive and foster children with same-sex couples. Notably, the case could have a significant impact on the parental rights of same-sex couples. 

A study found that individuals in same-sex couples raising adopted children are older and more educated. More than half of them have a college degree, compared to a third of men and women in different-sex married couples, a fifth of single parents, and only 7 percent of those in different-sex unmarried couples. Same-sex couples with adopted children also have the highest average annual household income of any of the adoptive family types.

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It is unfortunate that the effects on children of same-sex adoptive parents cannot be predicted. Research studies, conducted by individuals and organizations have vested interest in the outcome. Hence, they are grossly contradictory. Studies linked to conservative political and religious groups show negative effects on children of same-sex couples, while studies which support homosexual parenting reflect the bias of those who are themselves gay/lesbians or who support gay/lesbians rights. What is needed are definitive studies that follow larger numbers of adopted children over a long period of time. If done, the research will provide more definitive information for debate.

The process for same-sex couple adoption is no different than for other parents. Same-sex couples can explore all avenues of adoption, including domestic adoption, foster care adoption and international adoptions. Domestic adoption, refer to the placement of U.S. born infants for adoption by their birth parents, who legally consent to the adoption with an adoptive family of their choosing. For this option the wait period is between 6 months to 2 years.

International adoption can be difficult because many foreign countries have not legalized adoption for same-sex couples. Usually the average wait time for international adoptions is 1 to 3 years. Foster adoption has more promising rates for adoption and the waiting time is usually 2 to six weeks to adoption.

It is important for same-sex couples to surround themselves with a support system. Going through the adoption process is not easy, especially when there is already a bias against you.

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