LGBT ADOPTION: INTERVIEW WITH FOREVER FAMILIES THROUGH ADOPTION
Forever Families Through Adoption is a New York authorized and Connecticut-licensed, non-profit 501c3, adoption placement agency and resource center located in the Rye Brook/Port Chester area of Westchester County only 35 minutes outside of New York City. The agency was recognized as a 2011 leader in supporting and serving LGBT families by the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children-All Families Initiative. Below, they answer our questions on LGBT adoption, including transgender adoption, international adoption, and what to expect if you are a gay or lesbian couple looking to adopt.
IC: What services do you offer to gay and lesbian parents?
FFTA: Forever Families Through Adoption, Inc. (FFTA) is a Hague accredited adoption agency authorized to provide international services as well as domestic services for the LGBTQ community. At FFTA we have been very successful providing pre and post placement home study services/ supervision as well as “matching” and private placement services of newborn/children domestically as well as abroad.
IC: Do you recommend adoption as an option to LGBTQ parents right now?
FFTA: Yes, absolutely. Adoption is an important and wonderful option to consider for all those seeking to become parents and/or expand their family, including LGBTQ individuals and couples. Due to the variability in state and international laws, it is recommended that families work with adoption service providers with expertise in adoption as well as experience with and sensitivity to the needs of same sex couples and LGBTQ individuals.
IC: I have read recently about International Adoption being very difficult for gay and lesbian couples in the past few years. Can you talk a little about that – why the climate might have become more difficult, and what a gay or lesbian couple’s options would be if they are interested in adopting internationally?
FFTA: International adoptions overall have slowed down in recent years. The USA signed onto the Hague Treaty in 2008 and many changes have taken place since that time. For residents of the US to adopt in a foreign country, they must comply with the laws of their home state, the US as well as the country they wish to adopt from. It is important to be aware that many countries prohibit same-sex couples and singles from adopting. If you are looking into international adoptions please refer to www.adoption.state.gov where you can find a full listing and the criteria for each country.
IC: What countries still allow gay and lesbian parents to adopt?
FFTA: The USA permits gay and lesbian parents to adopt and some states, including New York, additionally permit unmarried same sex couples to have both names listed on the birth certificate.
IC: Is it possible for a single gay or lesbian person to adopt in NY (or any state)? What are their options, if so?
FFTA: Yes, we are happy to report that New York is very supportive of LGBTQ adoptions, including for gay and lesbian singles. To learn more about which states permit LGBTQ individuals and couples to adopt, please refer to this list from the Human Rights Campaign.
IC: How long do gay and lesbian couples tend to wait before an adoption goes through? Does the wait tend to be longer or shorter than that of straight couples?
FFTA: At FFTA, gay and lesbian couples, as well as singles and unmarried couples adopting domestically, should not expect to wait longer than other prospective adoptive parents. We find that once agency-approved, the wait is approximately 6-24 months to placement for all prospective parents and in some cases at FFTA, the wait has been even shorter, including for members of the LGBTQ community.
IC: Do you see any preference being given (when doing an open adoption) to gay couples over lesbian couples? If so, why do you think that happens?
FFTA: Birthparents choose same sex couples, both male and female, for various reasons and each family is unique. Open adoption can look different to prospective parents and birth parents. It is important to talk with your agency social worker to determine what you are most comfortable with – such as sharing photos and updates to post placement visitation, or anything in between. The goal is to focus on the best interest of the child and never promise anything you are not comfortable with. Since most birth parents are considering the prospective adoptive parents initially from a photo story/profile prepared by the adopting family, it is helpful to share your uniqueness. Many birth parents have shared that they choose male couples so that they can remain the “only mother”.
Although parenting options for female couples may be seen as more varied, leading proportionately fewer lesbian couples than gay male couples to choose adoption, adoption should be seen as a positive option for all.
IC: Do you recommend first trying to adopt in the state you reside in – or does that not matter? For example, as a couple from New York, do adoptive children through your agency come from all over the U.S., or mostly from NY state?
FFTA: At FFTA we do a great deal of community outreach to assist women to learn about their pregnancy and parenting options and provide awareness education including in the schools, hospitals, clinics and prison system. We assist and counsel birth parents living in any state in the US. Our placements consist of 50% within New York and 50% out of state.
IC: In your opinion, is it possible/more difficult for a couple where one partner is transgender to adopt? Can you talk a little bit about transgender adoption – What are the options for a couple where one partner is transgender?
FFTA: Laws vary from state to state, and unless prohibited, and if the home study evaluator is accepting, it is possible for transgendered individuals or partners to adopt. It is the case however, that agencies, both private and public in some cases, do discriminate on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. More information on transgender rights, transgender equality and adoption is provided by the Human Rights Campaign here and here as well as the Family Equality Council’s joint adoption laws and Movement Advancement Project’s transgender issues map and LGBT Families map.
IC: What difficulties might a gay or lesbian couple face when attempting to adopt?
FFTA: As mentioned previously, you may face the additional barrier of prohibition in a particular state or international country. However, most everyone beginning the adoption process feels they have at least one “strike” against them- it might be marital status, age, religious affiliation or even having other children in the home. What we want prospective adoptive parents to focus on is a positive attitude and pride in who they are and the life they will offer to a child.
IC: About how much does each type of adoption cost through FFTA?
FFTA: We find that private domestic adoptions can cost anywhere from $ 20,000.00 to $ 35,000.00 or even more. This is largely dependent on where you reside and where the adoption is being filed in court. There are different state regulations for pregnancy related living expenses and other costs are a variable such as legal fees and medical costs.
IC: What should a gay or lesbian couple know going into the adoption process?
FFTA: It is important to access information regarding laws in your state; resources include HRC’s Adoption Laws or LGBT Maps Project’s Equality Maps, as well as to obtain information on the philosophy and approach of various adoption service providers. LGBTQ couples and individuals who desire to parent should ask as many questions as needed to feel knowledgeable about and confident in their choices. There are many paths to parenting and none is “better” than another. All those seeking to adopt should feel free to explore the avenue that is right for them.
IC: What should a gay or lesbian couple be prepared to go through? For instance, can a mother change her mind, etc.?
FFTA: The process of adoption can be an unpredictable one. Having flexibility, a positive attitude and persistence are important qualities when adopting and will serve families well once parenting. Accessing resources and support whether within the family, neighborhood or broader LGBTQ and adoption communities, is critical. There are many misconceptions and myths surrounding adoption, among them the idea that birth families will just show up one day out of the blue. While this may be possible, it is extremely rare, and certainly not something to fear. Most often, birth parents have made a loving, caring and difficult decision and typically want to be reassured that it was the right one. That said, laws in each state will vary regarding a birth parent’s right to “revoke” their consent or surrender, and families should be informed about what those rights and potential outcomes entail.
IC: What states are friendliest for LGBTQ adoption? What states are least friendly?
FFTA: Regarding which states are LGBTQ “friendly” such as NY, NJ, CA, VT, the websites (listed below) for the Human Rights Campaign, Movement Advancement Project, and Family Equality Council maintain current information about the laws of most states and speak about where LGBTQ rights including family rights are protected and where these protections are not yet in place.
IC: About how many LGBTQ adoptions has FFTA completed? Do you see a trend in adoption by LGBTQ couples?
FFTA: Forever Families Through Adoption is a small, boutique like agency in which we work very closely with all our prospective adoptive parents and birth parents to ensure the best “matches” and placements. Many valuable statistics pertaining to national trends and individual state trends can be accessed through the following websites:
FFTA is proud to say that approximately 25% of our placements have been with same sex couples. FFTA has been awarded the All Children-All Families Seal of Recognition by the Human Rights Campaign for its LGBT- inclusive and – affirmative practices, and feels very strongly about being able to serve all individuals and families, including those who identify as LGBTQ, with the utmost competence, skill, sensitivity and respect. We welcome you to reach out to us for more information or with any questions at email@example.com or to visit our website at www.foreverfamiliesthroughadoption.orgWe wish you the best of luck with your family building endeavors.