Academic journal article Child Welfare

Envisaging the Adoption Process to Strengthen Gay- and Lesbian-Headed Families: Recommendations for Adoption Professionals

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Envisaging the Adoption Process to Strengthen Gay- and Lesbian-Headed Families: Recommendations for Adoption Professionals

Article excerpt

Although a growing number of child placement agencies are serving lesbians and gay men, a dearth of literature exists for adoption agency policies and practices related to working with this population. This article explores the unique characteristics and strengths of prospective gay and lesbian adoptive parents throughout each of the three phases of the adoption process-preplacement, placement, and postplacement-as well as provides suggestions for adoption professionals working with gays and lesbians. Data from a recent qualitative study of single, gay adoptive fathers are used to illustrate examples and expose areas of potential strengths of adoptive parents not generally explored in the preplacement or preparatory stage. Special attention also is given to the continuing needs of adoptive families headed by gays and lesbians after adoptive placement. Specifically explored are the needs for developing linkages with similar families, as well as providing resources designed to promote successful outcomes of adopted children raised by gays and lesbians.

Estimates of the number of men and women in the United States identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual vary considerably. This variation makes determining the exact number of gay men and lesbians who also are parents virtually impossible. Several researchers and organizations, however, have offered estimates. In their recent study, Stacey and Biblarz (2001) estimate that 1-9 million gay and lesbian parents are in the United States. Additionally, Patterson (1995) estimates that 1-3 million gay men in the United States are fathers (about 20%-25% of self-identified gay males) (Bigner, 1996). Finally, according to data extracted from the 2000 U.S. Census, 594,391 self-identified same-sex households are in the United States. Of these families, 21.8% of male same-sex households have their own minor children (defined as sons and daughters of householders) living in the household, and 22.3% have their own and/or unrelated children living with them (defined as sons and daughters of householders, and other nonrelated minors). The numbers are even higher for female same-sex households: Approximately 33% report having their own minor children living in the household, while 34.3% had their own and/or unrelated children living with them (Simmons & O'Connell, 2003).

The 2000 U.S. Census collected data on adopted children for the first time, and it now provides the most comprehensive national database on adoptive families. About 2.1 million adopted children were reported, including almost 1.6 million under age 18. Nearly 29,000 adopted children under 18 lived with a male householder who has an unmarried partner, while another 29,000 adopted minors lived with a female householder and her unmarried partner (Kreider, 2003). Data for adopted children living in households with unmarried partners are included in the previous numbers; however, the data were not broken down into opposite-sex and same-sex unmarried partners. The percentage of the adopted children that live in households with same-sex unmarried partners is unknown. Single gays and lesbians with adopted children are included in data on adopted children under 18 living with "male householders, no spouse present," which was 78,698 children, and those living with "female householders, no spouse present," which was 269,522 children (Kreider, 2003).

Additionally, a recent study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (2001) collected data from a representative, random sample of households located in 15 major U.S. metropolitan areas. Each responder was asked a series of questions, including whether there was any adult living in the home who was gay, lesbian, or bisexual. The results of the study are based on the responses of 405 self-identified gay, lesbian, and bisexual adults. Researchers found that 8% of the participants were parents or legal guardians of a child under 18 who lived in the home. While this study does not provide concrete evidence of the numbers of gay and lesbian parents, the results do suggest an appreciable population of gay men and lesbians are parenting minor children. …

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