Study shows barriers to same-sex adoption hurt children

Activists across the country are speaking up on behalf of some 129,000 U.S. children in need of adoption during National Adoption Awareness Month this November.

GLBT rights groups are focused on a study recently released by The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute which showed that there are many legal barriers in place that may complicate adoption by same-sex couples - a demographic that is very important to helping children get out of the foster care system before they age out.

Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and author of Adoption Nation, said there is no better time than now to address those key issues.

"There are lots of parents who are crucial, but we targeted gay and lesbian parents because they are specifically discriminated against in these practices," Pertman said. "When any group is discriminated against, it is obviously wrong on its face, but our perspective is focused on the kids. We want the right people involved, including GLBT parents."

According to the most recent Census data, gay and lesbian couples adopt at a higher frequency than heterosexual couples. In a report analyzing 2000 Census data, HRC’s Family Project and the Urban Institute found that same-sex parents are 1.7 percent more likely to have adopted than all other households.

"If two men or two women are planning a family, they need to do something like insemination, a donor, surogacy or adoption," Pertman said. "But another reason is more emotion-derived; gays and lesbians know what it is like to be discriminated against and, in a broad philosophical sense, not to have a home."

Florida is the only state to explicitly prohibit adoption by gays and lesbians by statute. Mississippi bans adoption by same-sex couples. Utah forbids adoption by any unmarried couple and recent legislation introduced in Arkansas mirrors the Utah prohibition. 

Tennessee has been no exception to the political debate on gay and lesbian adoption. The Tennessee Legislature proposed a ban on adoption by unmarried, cohabiting couples earlier this year.  In May, the legislation failed after months of intense lobbying by GLBT groups, including the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP),  and revelations that the proposal would cost the state more than $4 million in a tight budget year. 

"Professional opinion continues to line up against bias in adoption," said TEP President Chris Sanders. "We know our community provides loving homes to children. This study will help deter legislation that harms children and discriminates against parents."

The study by the Adoption Institute showed that the pool of prospective families for children in foster care could be significantly reduced if same-sex couples were banned from adopting, forcing thousands of children to 'age out' of the foster care system and putting them at high risk for a host of negative outcomes, including poverty, homelessness, incarceration and early parenthood.

"A lot of these kids wind up in jail," Pertman said. "The bottom line is that society is not serving them. Society literally is their guardian when parental rights are severed and they move into foster care. We have a moral and legal obligation to these kids."

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