Adopting a Newborn Through an Agency? What Gay Dads Can Expect
The 7 steps every gay man should be prepared to go through as he begins his adoption proceedings with a private agency.
Step 1: Find an LGBTQ-Competent Adoption Agency
As a prospective gay dad, you will want to do more than find an adoption agency that is "friendly" towards the LGBTQ community; you will want to find an agency with a successful track record of placing children with gay and lesbian individuals and couples. The Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) "All Children, All Families" project has the most comprehensive list of LGBTQ-competent agencies. But you may want to do your own research as well: visit agencies' websites and read online reviews. Ask your agency for statistics: how many of its total clientele are LGBTQ? Do LGBTQ individuals and couples have to wait longer, on average, to be matched? You may even consider asking for permission to speak with previous LGBTQ clients about their experiences.
Prior to hiring your adoption agency, be sure to research any additional standards they require of adoptive parents beyond those stipulated by state law. Some agencies, for instance, have requirements based on age. Others refuse to work with single gay men.
Quick note on finding an LGBTQ-competent adoption agency: In the past, many LGBTQ people understandably felt compelled to lie to their agency and caseworkers about their orientation or gender identity for fear it would hurt their chances for a successful placement. Today, however, many pro-LGBTQ agencies exists. Moreover, it's important to be straightforward with your adoption professionals as getting caught in a lie can be grounds to terminate your adoption proceedings. With enough research and forethought, however, there should be no need for this situation to arise: If you do your homework, you can be sure to find an adoption professional with a proven track record of working with the LGBTQ community.
Step 2: Research State Laws & Regulations
As a gay man or couple, it will be important for you to research the adoption laws governing your state as they vary. If you are adopting across state lines, moreover, you will need to understand the laws in both states. Though it is now legal for LGBTQ couples and individuals to petition to adopt in every state in the country, for instance, restrictions can still apply and the process can sometimes be overly complicated, particularly for single people or non-married couples. A competent private adoption agency should be prepared to navigate any potential issues for gay parents in your state.
Step 3: Complete the Home Study
The home study is often the source of untold anxiety for prospective parents—gay or otherwise—but with some preparation, you can complete the process as quickly as possible and without too much difficulty. During the home study, you will likely be assigned a caseworker or social worker who will help you through the process. He or she will help you gather all required documents, such as your driver's license, financial information, and birth certificate. You will also have to pass several clearances during the home study process, including a criminal background check, and a check into any previous child abuse and neglect. Additionally, you will have several meetings with a social worker that are used to help assess your fitness as a parent, and to ensure your home is safe for a child.
Step 4: Start the Matching Process
Once you have completed your home study, it's time to begin the matching process. When adopting an infant through private adoption, the agency is largely in charge of the matching process. They will often select adoptive parents in consultation with the birth family, and with the help of a family profile. A family profile is used to share pertinent information about you with your birth family, such as your particular set of values, interests, personality, family history, stories, and pictures. You can find many examples of family profiles online, and will work to create your own unique profile with the help of your social worker. Some agencies also create a video profile to provide birth parents with a visual guide to you and your home.
Step 5: Learn about the Birth Family
Once you and your family have been matched with a birth mother, your caseworker will often facilitate an opportunity to get to know the birth family. Most adoption professionals encourage this process as it can help birth mothers and adoptive parents feel more secure in the match. The method of communication between birth and adoptive families, however, can vary widely. You and/or the birth family may wish to keep communication to a minimum, and will perhaps communicate only once or twice via phone or email, or even not at all. Other situations may involve more extensive communication, particularly those who have chosen an "open" adoption. In this instance, the birth and adoptive parents may communication much more frequently, and meet in person regularly, throughout the course of the pregnancy and afterwards.
Step 6: Finalize Your Adoption
After being officially matched with your birth mother, the next step is to finalize your adoption after the birth of the baby. In some instances, the finalization will occur at the hospital, as soon as the baby is born. In others, however, it can take weeks or even months before the finalization is complete.
Before an adoption can be finalized, some states require a "revocation" period during which the birth parents have the right to terminate the adoption agreement. This period can last anywhere from several hours to months after the birth of a child. After this waiting period, you will enter the "post-placement" phase of your adoption, which can last up to a year. Several additional home visits are required during this time to check in on you and your new baby. The number of visits required, however, varies by state law.
After the post-placement period expires, you will finally be ready to finalize your adoption, which will occur in court. Though the surroundings can seem intimidating—in a courtroom, in front of a judge—finalization hearings are mostly a legal formality. It simply provides the judge an opportunity to verify that the birth parents have voluntarily terminated their parental rights and that you've complied with all state adoption laws.
Step 7: Celebrate!
Need some ideas on how to celebrate the big day? Stay tuned to Gays With Kids for stories and pictures of gay dads completing their adoptions.
For more, read our article “5 Questions Gay Men Should Ask Adoption Agencies or Attorneys."
Don't forget to read our indispensable guide to adoption: “Paths to Gay Fatherhood: The Adoptive Dad."
And read all the "Adoption Glossary Terms Every Adoptive Gay Dad Needs to Know."
The information included above is educational, and is not meant as a substitute for legal advice. Not adopting through an agency? Check out the common steps gay men can expect when adopting independently!