The pool of adoptive parents has always been thin for older youth in foster care. One group that has been more open to adoption of older foster youth has been gay couples. Their options to raise a family has been limited in the past because of the bias of adoption agencies to place young children with gay individuals. Many agencies have given priority to legally married couples which prevents gay couples in most states from adopting younger children.
A recent report in the LA Times highlighted the increased gay adoption:
The number of gays and lesbians adopting children has nearly tripled in the last decade despite discriminatory rules in many states, according to an analysis of recent population trends.
"It's a stratospheric increase. It's like going from zero to 60," said Miami attorney Elizabeth Schwartz, who has coordinated more than 100 adoptions for gay and lesbian families in the last year. "I think many really dreamed of doing this but it wasn't something they ever thought would become a reality."
Several states specifically prohibit same-sex couples from adopting jointly, while others have a patchwork of discriminatory policies that make it difficult for gays and lesbians to adopt either as individuals or as couples. But some states have eased restrictions on gay families.
Florida stopped enforcing its ban on gay adoptions last year after a decision by a state appeals court that the 3-decade-old law is unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law, among the strictest in the country, on behalf of Martin Gill and his male partner, who adopted two young brothers from foster care.
In the past, adoption was often an option only for wealthy gay families who could afford to adopt internationally or to pay a surrogate. Allowing gay couples to adopt from foster care, where healthcare and college is paid for, opens it up to more people, experts said. The study estimates about 50% of adoptive gay families adopt children from foster care.
Earlier this year, the Arkansas Supreme Court rejected a voter-approved initiative that barred gay couples and other unmarried people living together from serving as adoptive or foster parents
Virginia allows married couples and single people to adopt or become foster parents, regardless of sexual orientation, but bars unmarried couples — gay or straight — from doing so. Earlier this month, hundreds of residents weighed in on proposed regulations that would allow state-licensed groups to turn down prospective adoptive and foster parents because of their sexual orientation.
According to the Adoption Institute, at least 60% of U.S. adoption agencies surveyed accept applications from non-heterosexual parents. Nearly 40% of agencies have knowingly placed children with gay families. About half the agencies surveyed reported a desire for staff training to work with such clients.
But some adoption agencies have bucked the rules, saying it's unfair to force them to go against their religious beliefs by coordinating adoptions for gay families.
Catholic Charities refused to recognize Illinois' new civil unions law and allow gay couples and others living together outside marriage to be foster or adoptive parents. The state tried to end its multimillion-dollar contracts, but a judge temporarily allowed Catholic Charities to work with the state.
"If one agency doesn't serve you and you're gay, then another agency will," said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Adoption Institute. "You don't need 100% agency participation. The bottom line is, if you're gay or lesbian in America and you want to adopt, you can."
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