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Working With Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Families in Adoption
Series: Bulletins for Professionals|
Child Welfare Information Gateway |
|Year Published: 2011|
Challenges Faced by LGBT Adoptive Parents
While we have seen an increase in inclusive policies and practices, prospective LGBT adoptive parents continue to face unique challenges. Historically, LGBT parents were considered as a resource for "certain children." For example, in the mid- to late-1980s, gay men were allowed to be foster/adoptive parents to babies and children with HIV/AIDS. At that time, the stigma and discrimination toward gay men was intense, but there were few other adults who were willing to take a child with HIV into their homes.
Research has shown that many agencies apply a "hierarchy" of placement, sometimes unconsciously, in which priority is given to heterosexual couples (Ryan, 2000). Studies have also revealed that gay and lesbian couples are often treated as families of last resort when placement decisions are being made (Hicks, 1996).
The ideal approach to working with LGBT prospective parents is a nonbiased, strengths-based perspective in which each person or couple is assessed independently and objectively. This is the same standard applied to the assessment of all prospective adoptive parents. The following tips are important to keep in mind for the assessment process4:
- Like all prospective adoptive parents, LGBT individuals and couples will have varying ideas about the age, race, and background of children they feel able to adopt. Some will want to adopt only a healthy infant, while others will be very open to adopting older children with specific challenges. Be open to listening and respecting their fears, hopes, and concerns.
- Do not assume that prospective LGBT parents will want or, in fact, be best suited to raise LGBT youth. In some cases, this may prove to be an effective match. But best practices dictate that matching prospective parents with waiting children be done on a case-by-case basis, with the best interests of both parent and child as a guiding principle.
- LGBT prospective adopters often fear that they will be more highly scrutinized or held to different standards than their heterosexual counterparts. Make clear that your agency does not discriminate and make sure that this is truly the case. Provide realistic information about the adoption process, the home study and what it entails, the waiting period, and any fees or subsidy. If possible, provide such information to all families together so that all families hear consistent information at the same time. If there are going to be different issues for your LGBT families, let them know well in advance so they will not feel misled.
- Encourage LGBT families to connect with other waiting families or support groups for adoptive parents. The ability to talk to other families—gay and straight—is essential.
- If you are aware of discrimination in placement decisions within your agency or among the agencies with which you routinely work, talk to your supervisor or manager. The agency should make a plan to address such concerns effectively. It may be helpful to provide educational materials to your colleagues, such as research on LGBT parenting, position statements from leading national organizations, etc.
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