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- » Gay and Lesbian Adoptive Parents: Resources for Professionals and Parents-The Social Worker's Dilemma
6. The Social Worker's Dilemma
The debate goes on and will continue as long as there are conflicting views about homosexuality. Considering these different views, should social workers place children with gay men or lesbians? To make the best placement decision for children, social workers need to answer the following questions:
- Is this person or couple caring, nurturing, and sensitive to others?
- Do they have the qualities needed to parent a child?
- What are their individual strengths and weaknesses?
- How do their strengths/weaknesses compliment the needs of the child?
- Do they have the capacity to nurture a child not born to them?
In addition, for prospective homosexual adoptive parents, Denise Goodman, Ph.D., a consultant and trainer in Ohio, firmly believes that workers need to have a holistic understanding that includes finding out the answers to questions about their homosexuality:
"I counsel workers to ask homosexual applicants where they are in their individual development. Have they recently come out? Are they comfortable with their self-image and with being gay? Having a positive self-image will provide a model for an adopted child. I want to know about family support and how those who are important in their lives view them and their idea of adopting. I ask questions about the stability of their relationship and try to see how committed they are to each other. Do they have wills? Have they bought a home? Do they share finances? Once you know more about their situation, you can help them access appropriate resources and connect them with other gay or lesbian adoptive parents."
Goodman, who has trained thousands of social workers in Ohio, sees the opportunity for change, but has a few concerns.
"While it is gratifying to see social workers become more open, if agency administrators are not fully behind the workers, little will change. Families will be approved and never hear about an available child; those who aren't open about their sexuality will receive a child, while 'honest' applicants will wait, or other issues will surface so that a family is not accepted."
If a sense of trust and openness is established between a social worker and applicant, the worker can help to decide when privacy is the best route or when an applicant can be more outspoken. It ultimately depends on state laws and the views of presiding judges.
Professional prejudices and policy decisions
Adoption professionals need to be aware of their own personal prejudices and prejudgments when working with gay and lesbian prospective adoptive parents. Experiences and beliefs come from family background and values, religious beliefs, and community views on homosexuality and will effect social workers and agency staff's ability to assess the couple.20 Ann Sullivan, of the Child Welfare League of America, suggests in her article "Policy Issues in Gay and Lesbian Adoption", that professionals consider several key issues:
- The client is the child in need of an adoptive family. All families should be given equal consideration and the potential resources available weighed for the placement of the child.
- No single factor should be the determining factor in assessing suitability for adoption.
- In considering gay and lesbian prospective adoptive parents, sexual orientation and the capacity to nurture a child are separate issues and should not be confused in the decision making process.
- Each placement decision should be based on the strengths and needs of the individual child and the perceived ability of the prospective adoptive family to meet those needs and develop additional strengths.
Factsheet revised April 2000.
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