Become a Gay Dad

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.

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Gay Adoption

Adopting in the United States: A Guide for Gay Couples and Singles

Thinking about adopting in the United States? Check out this overview of domestic adoption for gay men.

Thinking about adoption? Gay men have more opportunities and options than ever before, but to be successful it is vital to know your options and understand the landscape of adoptions today.

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In the United States, there are two most common types of adoption: independent or private adoption, and agency adoption. Both come with different price tags.

Independent or private adoption is when the birth parents place the child directly with the adoptive parent or parents without an agency or intermediary. Parents who pursue independent adoption must still enlist the help of adoption lawyers and other professionals to help with the process. Three states do not allow independent adoption - Colorado, Connecticut and Delaware.

An agency adoption is more or less what it sounds like: you will select and work with a state-certified adoption agency throughout your entire adoption journey. It is legal in all 50 states.

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Become a Gay Dad

10 Tips for Saving for Adoption

For gay men, creating our families can be expensive. Here are some ideas to help you save for your adoption.

There's little argument that having a family in the U.S is expensive. But for gay men, creating a family can be even more complicated and expensive than it is for our straight counterparts. An adoption process can set you back anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000. You might find yourself asking, “How can anyone afford that?" The answer is: The majority of us don't. Those of us that do are forced to find the necessary funds by making savvy financial decisions. Here are some of our suggestions for doing so:

1. Create a Budget (and Stick to it!)

Perhaps the most obvious tip (and we'll break it down further) but don't underestimate the power of saving money where you can. Start paying attention to where your dollars are going – from that morning cup of joe when you're on the run to the bought lunches everyday at work. All of those small purchases add up!

Are you used to eating out regularly? Don't! Cut eating out or date nights to once a month and make it extra special. And extra special doesn't have to mean extra expensive. Think local delicious restaurant, preferably BYOB, and turn your phones off – make it count.

"It is so important to cut any unnecessary spending," shared Edward (not his real name), father of a 1-year-old daughter through adoption. "Keep your goals in sight and plan for the future."

Helpful hint 1: Make your coffee in a to-go cup before you leave the house; take a packed lunch with you to work. Sound simple? That's because it is!

Helpful hint 2: Set aside a change jar and put all your coins in it. At the end of every month, you'll get to hear the sweet sound of "ka-ching" as you put them through the coin machine.

Helpful hint 3: Plan your meals and stick to a grocery budget. Make a list (check it twice) and then don't go off it at the grocery store. Also, use coupons to further cut down on your grocery expenses.

Helpful hint 4: Cut home expenses: Get a less expensive data plan for your mobile phone. Stop wasting electricity. Turn down your A/C. Don't buy the newest phone model. Choose a basic cable package or cut the cord completely and use one online streaming service instead. You probably don't need Amazon Prime Video, HBO, Hulu AND Netflix. I mean, how much free time do you have? Amiright?

"It's crazy how much you can save by not eating out, not going out with friends, couponing and sticking to a grocery list," said Ben, dad of two boys through adoption.

​2. Open a Savings Account (and Put Money in it)

Start getting into the habit of transferring money into a separate (preferably hard to touch) savings account every payday. Figure out how much you can afford to save and transfer it as soon as you can.

"We set up a budget where we saved and automatically deducted money from our paychecks into a savings account," explained Ben.

3. Apply for an Adoption Grant

Did you know that there are nonprofits ready and waiting to help couples and singles create their family through adoption? Well, they really do exist! Check out Helpusadopt.org, an organization that offers up to $15,000 for families regardless of martial status, sexual orientation, race, religion, gender or ethnicity. Grants are awarded three times a year. So what are you waiting for? Fill out your application today!

​4. Refinance your Mortgage

Did you buy a house when the interest rates were higher than they are now? Refinance and pocket the difference into your savings account. The same goes for student loans. Shop around folks, shop around.

5. Save your Tax Refund

Ben and his husband used their tax refund as a starting-off point for their savings. But make sure that you're paying the correct tax rate so you don't get a nasty surprise in April. And the adoption tax credit?

"Tax benefits for adoption include both a tax credit for qualified adoption expenses paid to adopt an eligible child and an exclusion from income for employer-provided adoption assistance. The credit is nonrefundable, which means it's limited to your tax liability for the year. However, any credit in excess of your tax liability may be carried forward for up to five years." – IRS

6. Rent Out a Room (or your Entire House)

If you have a spare room in your home, consider renting it out for a year. Or sign up for AirBnB and play host to vacationers.

​7. Raise Money

From Kickstarter to IndieGoGo to GoFundMe, there are lots of options to put it all out there and ask others for financial donations. Read the Gays With Kids article on crowdfunding.

8. Find your Talent; Get Creative!

We're not all blessed with talents that result in piles of money, but we all have personal interests. These dads turned their passion for renovating and flipping homes into their key ingredient for saving for adoption. Time to start thinking how to turn your skill into a paid resource.

No untapped talent to speak of? Get a second job or try selling some of your things that you no longer need in a yard sale or on Craigslist.

"Get a second job, budget and start living as if you have that child," advised Ben, whose two adoptions cost $71,000 in total. "Children cost money once they get here. Change [your lifestyle] now and save that money!"

9. Check your Employee Benefits

See if your employer provides any financial assistant to families who adopt, and if they don't already, consider speaking with your HR department. For example, active duty military personnel may be eligible for a $2000 reimbursement.

​10. Ask your Relatives

This isn't possible for everyone but for those who can, consider asking your family for help. Relatives often don't realize how much an adoption costs, but once they do, your parents (or grandparents or loaded uncle) might want to help. It could be by way of a low or interest-free loan, or as a gift. This might be your last option, but it's worth giving a go.

"If you are close to your family, think about asking them for help, if it's within their financial means," said Edward whose one adoption cost $36,000.

Bonus: Consider Foster-to-Adopt

Foster-to-adopt can be a totally free option but it can come with its own set of hurdles. Ultimately you have to decide what the best path to fatherhood is for you.

** The path you choose to create your family is a very personal one. Gays With Kids supports you, whatever your particular path to fatherhood. Check out our "Becoming a Gay Dad" section for the different paths, and please keep us posted on your journey! **

For more, read our article Adoption Glossary Terms Every Adoptive Gay Dad Needs to Know."

And read Agency or Independent Adoption: Which Should Gay Dads Choose?"

Don't forget to read our indispensable guide to adoption:Paths to Gay Fatherhood: The Adoptive Dad."

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