You may have heard that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has been singing the blues this past week. The state of Utah had its ban on same sex marriage struck down by a federal judge, and this ruling also allows same sex marriages to take place. Conservatives and their religious choir regularly sing the praises of traditional families, values, and strong communities; however, there is another part of this issue that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough.
Utah and many other states that ban same sex marriage also ban gays, lesbians, and same sex couples from adopting children. Conservatives can huff and puff about family values all they want, but when that means legally free children awaiting permanent loving adoptive families within supportive communities are denied that opportunity because of bigotry and ignorance, those values are seriously fucked up.
I’m proud of my state (Washington), and not just because same sex marriage is now legal, as well as the recreational use of marijuana. I’m proud because gay and lesbian individuals and same sex couples have been able to adopt children here for quite some time.*
Around twenty years ago, a colleague, whose job was finding permanent adoptive families for children in state care, asked me to help her with a case. My coworker was an excellent and experienced social worker, and she had found a permanent home for a child who was around six months old. The uniqueness of this situation was that this child was going to be placed with the first same sex couple ever to be allowed to adopt a child in the state of Washington.
The foster parents caring for the child were conservative Christians, and there were rumors that a news crew from a Seattle station might be present when the child was placed with the adoptive parents. My coworker didn’t want any part of that, and I was asked to transport the child from the foster home back to our office. I was more than happy to help, and in the end there was no excitement or news crews waiting; my only specific memory is of the smiles on the adopting parents’ faces when I arrived with their child!
Many of the children waiting in foster care to be adopted are over the age of five and often have struggles with special needs, disabilities, or emotional and behavioral challenges. In my experience, many of the folks in the LGBTQ community who become foster and adoptive parents have more empathy and understanding for the struggles and challenges these children face; and often LGBTQ parents are more willing to adopt children with special needs.
Please don’t think I’m trying to throw Christian foster and adoptive parents under the bus. Far from it; in fact, I’ve known many Christian adoptive parents who’ve taken on very challenging special needs children and provided them a wonderful, loving home. My main concern is for the large numbers of children with special needs and a history of family dysfunction, as well as children of color, older children, and LGBTQ adolescents, who wait way too long in foster care to be adopted. A commenter on an earlier Grounded Parents post mentioned aging out in the foster care system (http://groundedparents.com/2013/12/19/oh-youre-adopted/). The outcome statistics for children who spend years in foster care or who eventually become adults as foster children are not encouraging or positive at all.
States that ban same sex marriage typically also ban adoption by same sex couples, and some states will also exclude an individual who admits to being LGBTQ from adopting as well.** Children need permanent homes with loving, committed parents; if your family values contribute to the length of time children wait for permanency and a family to call their own, your family values are part of a serious problem. And if you actively support the legalization of same sex marriage, please take the time to call and write your state legislature about same sex couples and LGBTQ individuals or couples being able to adopt. I’ve no doubt that many parents who want to adopt as well as children hoping for a parent and a permanent home would appreciate your advocacy.
*The list below is from a Washington State Adoption brochure. And I’m confident that someday all states will have similar criteria.
Who can adopt a child through DSHS (The Department of Social and Health Services)?
- Married or single people, over the age of 18
- Same sex couples
- People of any race
- People of any religion or no religious preference
- People who work out of their home
- People who rent or people who own their own homes
- People with high or low incomes but can support the addition of a child
- People with or without children
- People willing and able to parent a child with a wide range of life experiences
**Currently, from what I can find on the web, these are the states that allow adoption by same-sex couples: California, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. (It’s hard to understand, but more states allow same sex marriage than allow same sex couples to adopt. WTF?) And these are the states that allow gay and lesbian individuals to adopt but have laws preventing same sex second-parent adoptions: Colorado, Ohio, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.
(All images are the property of the author.)