The Gay Adoption Option: Good Idea or Bad Precedent?

Published February 11, 2008

Posted April 3, 2006 – They had always talked about filling their home with laughter other than their own, but it was in May 2000 that Alvin B. Williams and his partner, Nigel Simon, decided the time was right for children.

The two were taking part in a Gay Pride celebration in Washington, D.C. when an Adoptions Together booth caught their attention.

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Williams, a D.C.-area dentist, and Simon, an environmental protection specialist, said they grabbed pamphlets and spoke to several people about the adoption process.

Williams, 51, and Simon, 36, quickly completed the necessary paperwork and, within the year, a child’s laughter was bouncing off their walls.

Making a Difference

“It felt great,” Simon said. “We had a feeling of elation that we finally had a child after going through the long process, but we had some jitters because now we had a little person to take care of and make sure that he felt loved, safe and secure with his new family.”

The couple said they wanted to make a difference, and they felt that more children would be better off living in a loving home than in no home at all.

Officials who work in the foster care system or with adoption agencies across the nation say that prospective parents who share the philosophy of Williams and Simon are exactly on point. They point to a foster care system bulging at the seams with little boys and little girls -- particularly Black boys and girls -- who too few people want.

On any given day in the United States, says Marquita Stephens, a spokeswoman for the African Amercan Adoption Agency, there are roughly 350 Black children waiting for a permanent home.

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In fact, while African Americans comprise only about 13 percent of the U.S. population, nearly half of all children awaiting adoption (40 percent) are Black, according to 2002 study by Samiya A. Bashir for Colorlines Magazine. In major cities, like New York City, the number can reach 75 percent, Bashir says, noting that there is an average three-year wait. For Black children, however, the wait is usually twice as long.

"It's Not Right ..."

But that doesn’t mean that everyone is happy to see gay couples like Simon and Williams step up to provide homes for these children.

''It's not right on paper. It's not right in fact. Every child has a right to a mother and a father," said Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney(R), who opposes gay adoption.

Romney isn’t alone.

Arkansas, Mississippi, Utah and Florida have an outright ban on gay adoption, and at least six states, are considering legislation to keep gays from adopting, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Mississippi law bans gay couples – but not single gays and lesbians – from adopting. Some Florida legislators have been trying to change the state ban to allow gay foster parents to adopt children already in their care.

When local church officials ordered Catholic Charities of Boston to stop placing children in same-sex households, the agency decided it would rather end its adoption program than allow gays to adopt.

"Children do best with a mother and a father . . . Kids would be better off in foster care than with a homosexual couple," Mary Anne Hackett, president of the Concerned Catholics of Illinois, said, adding that children suffer long-term "damage" in such placements.

But a newly released report by a major adoption institute disagrees.

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Positive Adjustment

The report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute says that tens of thousands of children in the foster care system need permanent, loving homes and that gay adoption "holds promise as an avenue for achieving permanency for many of the waiting children in foster care."

The institute says that virtually every valid study – despite small samples – reaches the conclusion that children of gays and lesbians adjust positively, and their families function well.

Williams and Simon, who have since added two more children to their home, see their family as proof.

“Our youngest son came to us with a diagnosis of being developmentally delayed, which was a misdiagnosis. He’s been on the honor roll for four years, and he’s been accepted into the talented and gifted program at his school,” Williams said.

In fact, Williams says, all three children – two 8-year-old boys and one 12-year-old girl – are doing well academically and socially, and are getting support from school.

“The adoption system is bulging at the seams, with hundreds of thousands of Black kids across the country in need of permanent, stable, loving homes. We had that to give,” Simon said.

Sterling Washington, vice president of the D.C. Coalition of Black Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexuals and Transgenders, said, that children thrive in environments where they are loved and supported, "regardless of the sexual orientation of their parents."

“The most important thing is the welfare of the children, and it’s much better for them to be placed in gay homes than to stay in the adoptive services system,” Washington said.

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A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press that found public approval of gay adoption is increasing. It found that 48 percent were opposed and 46 percent in favor. 

Just seven years ago,  when the poll was  first conducted , 57 percent were opposed and only 38 percent were in favor.

Like Washington, Kamilah Bunn, of Adoptions Together, believes there are many types of families that can be excellent resources for children who need parents.

“Adoptions Together welcomes couples and singles, regardless of race, faith, gender or sexual orientation,” she said.

Still, the Donaldson study, written by Illinois State University adoption expert Jeanne Howard, acknowledges that research on gay parenting remains limited.

“There are no hard numbers, but we know there is an increase of gay and lesbian adoptions because of what people tell us at adoption agencies,” said Adam Pertman, a spokesman for the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. “It's what they see every day.”

Pertman noted that 60 percent of all agencies in the United States take applications from individuals they know are gay.  And 40 percent of those agencies have placed children with gays and lesbians.

Should homosexual couples be allowed to adopt children?  Click the link to the left to take our poll, then click "Discuss Now" to discuss.

Written by BET-Staff

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