While U.S. adoption laws are still set by state governments, many of the discriminatory policies that held in the past have been dismantled. Behind a sea-change in the public’s perception of LBGT adoption, every state (along with the District of Columbia) now grants same-sex couples and LGBT singles the right to adopt children.
State Law Makes A Big Difference
That’s good news, a definite sign of moral progress. Public support for LGBT adoption has shifted dramatically over recent years. In 2014, a poll by Gallup found that over 60% of U.S. respondents thought same-sex couples should have the right to adopt. Only 55% believe that lesbian and gay couples should be allowed to marry.
However, the growing public consensus on LGBT adoption has not yet trickled up to change the archaic thinking of many conservative state representatives. Just as states have finally acknowledged the basic right to adopt, GOP lawmakers are clamoring to endorse discriminatory practices within the marketplace.
South Dakota became the first state to act in March 2017, passing a law that allows even state-funded adoption agencies to deny services to clients who don’t pass their moral muster. Oklahoma, Texas and Alabama are considering similar bills, all euphemistically hidden by the banner of “religious freedom.” State-sanctioned discrimination appears to be alive and well.
No state will explicitly stop you from adopting a child, but variations in state law can significantly impact how agencies are allowed to treat you – and what recourse you are allowed if you face discrimination. Learn everything you can about your own state’s adoption statutes before starting on your adoption journey.
Need professional help? Think about reaching out to an adoption attorney who specializes in LGBT placements. While we believe that most prospective adoptive parents are best served by a licensed adoption agency, attorneys can be a wonderful resource as you gather information.
Choose An Agency Wisely
This probably goes without saying, but it’s crucial to find an adoption agency that respects you and your decision to adopt. Look in your area for licensed agencies that advertise themselves as inclusive. Check for prominent non-discrimination pledges on websites. Scroll through an agency’s “Waiting Families” page; do you see any same-sex couples? Obviously, reach out to any members of your community who have adopted and learn from their own experiences. When you’ve developed a list of possible options, start calling to set up consultations. You’ll only really get a sense of the agency’s values face-to-face.
We generally dissuade prospective adoptive parents from pursuing an independent adoption, either through an adoption “facilitator” or attorney. Some states don’t even recognize independent adoption as a legal avenue, so it might not be an option in your own case. Where independent placements are allowed, though, the process tends to multiply the parties involved without much benefit. Adoption lawyers still have to contract with agencies to perform a homestudy and every facilitator will have to hire both an adoption agency and an attorney. Neither will provide emotional counseling or on-going support, two services offered by licensed adoption agencies that can be extremely important.
Maxine Chalker, MSW/LSW is the founder and executive director at Adoptions From The Heart. An adoptee herself and pioneer in the field of “open” adoption, Maxine is dedicated to supporting the LGBT community. You can learn more about Maxine’s work at AFTH.org.