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What Same-Sex Couples Need to Know About Adopting


Here's what to know before starting a family.

In my home, everyone is adopted -- except me. That includes my loving partner of 20-plus years. Together we've raised two wonderful children. Parenting shaped me into the person I am today and it made our relationship stronger. Adoption is not an easy process, but I hope my experience can help guide yours.

Flexibility is key
Maybe your original choice was the metaphoric turkey baster but it didn't work, or you spent thousands of dollars on artificial insemination or a surrogate. When I was single, my first inclination was recruiting men for sperm; but, wouldn't you know it, they all wanted to sleep with me. I quickly decided not to participate in the birthing process and began the quest to adopt -- and fell in love with my partner along the way.

Do your homework
Back then, there were no queer-identified groups for future parents, so I attended classes as a "single" woman. Now there are many resources and agencies to help you navigate the trends, with affordable classes that explain the difference between domestic, private, and international adoption. The Human Rights Campaign ( also has an All Children-All Families initiative and offers a list of queer-friendly agencies around the U.S.

I did a foreign adoption during an era of ambiguous laws -- so much so that I took my brother with me when it was time to pick up the baby. It was painful to leave my partner at home, but we didn't want to take any risks. Some lesbians went together and pretended they were friends or sisters, but putting on a charade was not comfortable for me. Since then, several countries have made government rulings against queer adoption, including single men and women who cannot prove their heterosexuality.

Look at your own homophobia
When I look back, I'm glad I can laugh at the memory of taking down my Egon Schiele watercolor of two naked women embracing and replacing it with a Matisse poster of goldfish before my social worker's first visit. I was afraid of having anything that hinted at eroticism on my wall. My adoption report needed that social worker's approval, and I needed her green light to complete my paperwork before I could head overseas.

Although you'll be judged and evaluated, nobody is going to be looking in your underwear drawer. I overcompensated by buying conservative beige clothes and over-bathing my dog. One smart thing we did was make our house child-friendly by putting up gates at stairs, covering electric outlets, and installing other safety precautions.

Don't worry about the future
It's hard not to fret when you're deep in paperwork, thinking every day about a child coming into your life. At one point, I became paralyzed. Out of desperation I imagined five years, 10 years, 20 years into the future -- and what it would be like if I didn't keep trying. This exercise was a huge motivator and helped me see I was truly committed to adoption, but if it didn't work out, I could live with the results.

I also knew a Reform rabbi who told me that every prospective parent will have a moment or two of doubt. It's inevitable, especially today, when it's so easy to obsess over the political landscape. Unfortunately, there will always be opposition to LGBT people adopting. Don't let your fear stop you.

Go where the love is
Follow the yeses and stay away from negativity because you may experience pushback, even within your own community. Don't expect all queer people to understand your drive to parent. Some will walk with you; others won't. Try not to be judgmental, but protect yourself. Work with people who are realistic without being cynical. One of the first adoption lawyers I interviewed told me, "These kids are like amputees with parts of them missing that can never be replaced." Obviously, I did not hire her.

Rejection is protection
Adoption was the perfect choice for my family, even though there was a year delay before we got our first child. At the time, the extended wait felt unbearable. I don't mean to go all cosmic on you, but there is a spiritual element involved in the process, so don't get discouraged. I believe that ultimately you end up with the child that is meant to be yours. I know I did.

Lfreeman-author-kate-arnesenx120LISA FREEMAN is an author, actress, and teacher best known for her novels Honey Girl and Riptide Summer (both Sky Pony Press). She grew up amid the Hollywood scene and emerged as an actress in such films as Back to the Future, Back to the Future II, and Mr. Mom. She earned her MFA from Antioch University and now resides in Santa Monica, Calif., only miles down the road from State Beach, where her Honey Girl novels take place. (

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Lisa Freeman