My son is precious. When my husband and I adopted him in 2008 we couldn't begin to understand just how much joy he would bring to our lives in New York City. As I look across the kitchen table each morning and see the sparkle in his six-year-old eyes, I can’t imagine life without him.
Thousands of other same-sex parents across the country have created similar loving homes for their children and found the same enrichment on the parenting journey. But for many, accessing adoption is difficult at best and in some cases virtually impossible.
I care about this issue as a father and as a leader representing thousands of families through my role at Family Equality Council. During National Adoption Month in November my staff and I are reminding the American public about how many children’s lives would be improved if the patchwork of adoption laws were equal for LGBTQ families. My colleagues and many of our constituents are sharing their adoption stories through our “Allies for Adoption” campaign to illustrate their unique, often challenging, yet extremely rewarding experiences in creating families through adoption.
As one family with two dads who adopted brothers through the foster care system in Massachusetts put it: “I wonder about those states where the LGBTQ community is restricted from adopting through foster care; how many sibling groups are permanently ripped apart simply because there is no one to adopt them? What if our boys had lived in one of those states? Chances are, they would either age out of the foster care system or be adopted out to separate families. Luckily, we’ll never know… For our boys, it matters not that they now have two dads, but that they have a loving and permanent place to call home…together.”
A lesbian couple in the Midwest explained: “Adoption is not for the weak – and the best advice we received when we started the process was that there is little fair about the process. But what is fair — beyond fair — is that we have the children who were meant to be our children.”
As these parents so honestly attest, in the majority of states across the country, LGBTQ people encounter barriers when trying to adopt a partner’s child, jointly adopt through a private agency or when attempting to serve as foster or adoptive parents to youth in care.
LGBTQ parents have raised more than six million children across this country, yet we still face hurdles when trying to create and protect our families, including a lack of access to second-parent adoption for many parents. The imbalance in state adoption laws and policies leave our families vulnerable and fail to take into consideration the best interests of our children.
In addition to protecting our children through easing access to adoption, the numbers also reveal a crisis in the foster care system. We are failing the 400,000 kids in the U.S. foster care system. More than 23,000 of these kids age out each year because there is a critical shortage of qualified parents. With a pool of two-million potential parents, the LGBTQ community is a deep untapped resource for foster youth. Right now there could be five-times as many prospective LGBTQ parents than there are youth in foster care. Until we remove barriers to adoption by LGBTQ people in every state, thousands of children may miss their chance to find a forever family.
Today, in a country where 35 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry, LGBTQ people still face barriers –including blatant discrimination – in creating and protecting their families through adoption. Marriage does not fix the issue universally.
By eliminating existing roadblocks, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer parents and prospective parents in all 50 states will be better equipped to create and protect their families in all of the beautiful ways we create them. And the more than 400,000 youth in foster care, 100,000 of whom are available for adoption, will have a much better chance of finding their forever families.
We urge everyone to join with Family Equality Council in educating our communities not only about how we can work together to find forever homes for all of our nation’s foster youth, but also about how access to adoption is critical to the LGBTQ family community.
GABRIEL BLAU is executive director of Family Equality Council, an organization that connects, supports, and represents the three million parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, and queer in this country and their six million children. Learn more about “Allies for Adoption” here.