A look into the adoption process for LGBT families
When I was looking for a job 15 years ago, with my newly-minted graduate degree, I was willing to take any counseling position that allowed me to be home after school for my children. One of the jobs I pursued was that of a contract social worker for an adoption homestudy agency in Raleigh. This was quite an attractive job in that it offered flexible hours, a positive client population and a decent salary. There were many applicants applying for this position.
Out of all of those applicants, some with extensive adoption experience, I was selected. Why? My selection was because I answered one question correctly. The question; you guessed it,”Will you work with same-sex couples?” Seems this agency did not have any Charlotte area social workers who were willing to work with same-sex couples.
Fast forward 15 years later to 2012. Is this level of prejudice and homophobia present in today’s adoption community? The answer is, not at that level, but in some circumstances you may find discrimination. Despite some instances of discrimination, I am delighted to report that it is very possible to successfully adopt as a same-sex couple today. The most important factors in achieving this goal are in selecting excellent gay friendly agencies.
Very simply, there are three possible adoption venues:
1. Private adoption – either through a child-placing agency, an attorney, or an independent source.
2. DSS (Department of Social Services) adoption, utilizing a social services program either within or outside of your county.
3. International Adoption – adopting a child from outside the United States.
In this article I will focus on the private adoption which is most commonly utilized by many same-sex couples.
In order to pursue any adoption, you will need a homestudy from a homestudy agency licensed in your state. Typically couples interested in adoption will then utilize a separate child-placing agency which can be located out of state. You may also choose to hire an adoption facilitator or consultant who can help you find appropriate adoption opportunities. As a gay couple, you will want to screen any potential agency carefully to determine if they will be a good fit for you. Always be honest. Ask potential agencies the following questions:
• Do you work with same-sex couples?
• If yes, has it presented you with any particular problems?
• How many have you worked with in the past year?
• How many have successfully adopted?
• Can you give me a reference of another same-sex couple with whom you’ve worked?
Check out the Human Rights Campaign’s website for a list of gay-friendly agencies. Ask friends for the names of agencies they have used. I caution my clients that often agencies that are faith-based are not gay-friendly, but this is not true in all cases. The best way to find out is to ask questions!
You will find some agencies that are not a good fit for your family. However, there are plenty of excellent, gay-friendly facilitators and child-placing agencies throughout the country. In North Carolina, there are a few gay-friendly homestudy agencies, such as ours, Nathanson Adoption Services. When we work with a same-sex couple we can recommend specific gay-friendly child placing agencies and facilitators. After placement of their child, we ask for feedback on these entities and utilize that information for future clients.
New clients of mine, Jason and Sheldon, are just getting started with their adoption homestudy. I’ve referred them to a highly professional gay-friendly facilitator and a few gay-friendly child placing agencies. I have also warned them about some gay-friendly agencies that are not ethical. Once you ascertain that an agency is gay-friendly, you will still want to check them out to ensure that they will do a good job for you. Recently, Jason said, “What a surprise! Everyone I spoke to was so nice and encouraging about our adoption plans.” I’m confident this couple will become parents within the next 9-12 months. : :
Helene M. Nathanson, MHDL, is the Executive Director and founder of Nathanson Adoption Services. Prior to forming these agencies, Helene provided adoption counseling, home study and post-placement services as a social worker for several North Carolina adoption agencies. She has taught seminars on adoptive parent preparation and education on behalf of various adoption agencies and adoptive parent support groups. She is a frequent presenter throughout North Carolina on adoption topics concerning both international and domestic adoption, and has appeared many times on television and radio programs.