6 Adoption Tips That Every Prospective Gay Dad Needs to Know
From gay dads who've adopted, here are 6 things you need to consider if you're thinking about adopting.
Gays With Kids surveyed a group of dads who created forever families through adoption to learn what advice they have to offer future adoptive dads. From our conversations, here are the top 6 tips that every prospective gay dad needs to know about adoption.
1. Know why you're adopting
"Adoption is the best, most fantastic, wonderful thing on earth. It is complicated, but so is marriage, life, and anything worth doing." – Kevin O'Leary
Adoption isn't just about a child; it's about how you get your child. Today's gay dads have a choice in deciding how they want to grow their families. The process of adoption will reveal who you are as an individual and who you will be as a family. Are you adopting because you believe in helping children who may feel trapped in the social-work system? Are you concerned about passing on a history of genetic illness in your family? When you adopt a child, you are almost certainly inviting private agencies, social workers, and birth parents and mothers who are entirely different from you into your life. You need to ask why adoption, reach a satisfying answer, and then move on to the how.
Kevin (left) and Brian with their sons
2. Budget your money and your time
"We doubled our top budget … It was extremely expensive, but you look back and it was nothing compared to the end result." – Brent Munster and Doug Spicer
Raising a child isn't cheap; adopting one, even less so. Whether you work with a private agency or the state, you have to prepare to present a welcoming home, steady jobs, and safe financials. You need to invest in the right lawyers and in the right caseworkers. You need to know if adoption expenses are tax deductible, or if your job offers paternity leave. Oftentimes, you will pay for hospital bills for the birthmother, and you may even become financially entangled with the birth family after the adoption.
3. Be honest about the child or children you are looking for.
Every child deserves a loving home. You know that. But when you're adopting, you need to be incredibly honest about what kind of child will make you the most effective family possible. You need to talk about race, about religion, about special needs. Are you prepared to raise a child who is a different skin color from you? Or who comes from a culture that they might not be exposed to in your house? Can you handle a history of drug or sexual abuse? Answering these questions may make you uncomfortable, or even limit your options of available children. But you have to get those answers right.
4. Come out as a gay adopting parent when you're comfortable
"As we began letting our friends and extended family know our intention to adopt, people began sending us notes congratulating us and wishing us well on our search." – Tom McMillen-Oakley
As gay men, coming out is challenging. Coming out as an adoptive dad is no different. You will already need to be out for your adoption professionals, but as you do your research – so much research! – you may consider coming out to friends and family as prospective adopters. This allows for some great opportunities to hear stories of encouragement, as well as the horror stories that are out there. Learn from those stories, but also let yourself be out so you can be ready for any opportunity. One gay couple shared their stories on Facebook only to meet their future birthmother who was just browsing social media. In adoption, you cannot afford to close yourself off from any chance to find your son or daughter.
Tom (right) and Tod with their kids.
Photo credit: Sethington Creations
5. Prepare for rejection
"You don't have to jump at the first mother who shows an interest in you." – Andrew Kohn
Adoption is not a transaction; it's a partnership. No matter how many home studies you do, no matter how many visits with birthmothers at cafés or the hospital, no matter how many months of late-night calls from lawyers or agents — you still may be rejected. And you are not the only hopeful parents out there. Gay men still face prejudice in the adoption process and are often dismissed in favor of straight couples. Agencies and birthmothers want to know everything about your life, and in the end, they may still say no. When that happens, turn back to tip #1.
Andrew (right) and Don with their kids
6. Consider an open or closed adoption
"We chose an open adoption because we wanted to know the birthparents and their family and we wanted to have as much information as possible regarding health records and other hereditary information." – David Blacker
When you have finally agreed on an adoption, the next questions that makes a lot of gay dads hesitate is whether they will have an open adoption — where the birth family can still have contact with the child — or a closed adoption. This is a negotiation between the adopting parent and the birth family. While it may seem that you want your family to be just that – your family – several gay dads have chosen open adoptions. Many do this for medical reasons in case of an emergency; others sincerely feel that their child will develop better knowing the biological family. Whatever the reason, a gay dad has to understand the amount of contact they want in an open adoption, how frequently that contact happens, and where a birth family is in danger of crossing the line. Balance both your core family values with empathy for the birth family, always keeping in mind what is best for your son or daughter.
For more on adoption, check out our gay adoption resource page.