Election day robbery

It is absolutely time to end adoption practices that prevent adoption and fostering by gay and lesbian people. I am so, so tired of hearing news like this, where narrow-minded opinions close the door on a family to children who might otherwise be able to grow up in one. I'm tired of watching the struggles of my gay and lesbian friends to form families where laws have been created to tear them apart. When I say "form families" here, I mean it in the sense of developing bonds as respected as those we take for granted in two-parent heterosexual families - not in the sense of "family building" as we often see it in adoption, where it signifies entitlement to adopt by choice or as an alternative to infertility.

I applaud the work that Adam Pertman and the staff of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute are doing to raise awareness about this issue.

Election day robbery

For many boys and girls, Election Day did not bring new hope; it robbed them of it.

That was certainly the case in Arkansas, where voters decided to slash the number of families available to provide safe, caring homes for abused and neglected children languishing in the state's foster care system. They did that by approving a referendum — aimed squarely at gays and lesbians — prohibiting unmarried, cohabiting couples from becoming foster or adoptive parents.

Viewed through the prism of what best serves the interests of children who need homes, the debate about gay and lesbian parenting (within or outside of marriage) is not a close call. The research is clear: Children grow up far better in families than in temporary care or institutions, and their outcomes are comparable whether their parents are straight or gay.

A new report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, “Expanding Resources for Waiting Children,” which I head, points out some critical facts:
  • About 129,000 children in foster care are legally free for adoption, and not enough adults are filling the need in any state; the 25,000 who “age out” of the system each year face a very high risk of negative outcomes such as homelessness, poverty, incarceration and early parenthood.
  • Gays and lesbians, studies show, are more willing to adopt children with special needs — which most boys and girls in foster care have — than are heterosexuals.
  • Adoption from foster care yields between $3.3 billion and $6.3 billion in savings nationally each year, while a nationwide ban on foster parenting by gays and lesbians would add $87 million to $130 million in total costs for states to find other caretakers.
The report suggests that joint adoption (when both parents adopt at the same time) and second-parent adoption (when a partner or spouse later adopts the child) should expand from the handful of states where they are currently permitted for gays and lesbians to become the norm from coast to coast. The arguments for doing so are based principally on the benefits to children, ranging from health insurance to legal protections to the emotional security of feeling part of a “normal” family.

Because these arguments apply to marriage as well, many child advocates are concerned about the results of Nov. 4 voting in California, Florida and Arizona to allow only heterosexuals to marry. But the most direct, problematic result for children that day clearly took place in Arkansas.

While the referendum was aimed at gays and lesbians, it also removes qualified cohabitating heterosexuals from the pool of prospective adoptive parents. It is an audacious action that undermines the prospects for needy children to get homes, made all the more unnerving by reports that its advocates plan to build on their “success” by working to repeat it in other states.

Whatever anyone may believe personally about parenting by lesbians, gay men
and unmarried heterosexual couples, can it really be acceptable for some children, by law, to be granted less of a shot in life than others? Most troubling, can it really be true that there are people who think a child is better off with no parents than ones who are living together outside of traditional marriage?

On the eve of a new presidency, if we as a nation are to bring real hope to vulnerable boys and girls who have so little of it, we need to finally address those troubling questions.

Adam Pertman is executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York. Originally published in the Arkansas Times.

EBD publications on gay and lesbian adoption can be found here.


rosemary said…
So glad we're talking about this again because I think it is too serious a crime to be forgotten! I am outraged on behalf of children everywhere.
Margie said…
Me, too. And I'm glad EBD is staying on this issue, too. They have a good reputation and are able to go to the mat with the NCFA on equal turf.
blackbelt said…
I have incredible, extreme conflict and extreme angst about this issue. Agh.
Margie said…
Oma, I know that many people are conflicted about it, you are not alone. I think the most important thing to do to work through the conflict is to communicate with gay and lesbian people and here about their experiences first hand.

My point of view on this issue has been the same throughout my life, and is based on my belief, which science is proving to be true, that we don't choose our sexual orientation, we are born with it. My faith tells me we are all born in the image and likeness of God - all of us, not just heterosexuals. These together have formed my point of view.

This, and the reality that there are thousands of kids who could have families if we got past biases against gay and lesbian parents, make me a supporter of laws that make it possible.

There's a great blog I'll suggest you read, Peter's Cross Station at http://lilysea.blogs.com/peterscrossstation/. Shannon is amazing, she and her partner have two children through adoption. She writes about all kinds of things - parenting generally, lesbian issues, transracial parenting and faith. Excellent.
blackbelt said…
No, no, no. I know all that. It's the conclusion I draw from all of that which is different than yours. My stomach hurts.
Margie said…
I misunderstood, then, apologies. And I know it's a complicated issue for many folks. I'd be interested in your point of view.

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