Expert Advice

Your 15 Most Common Questions About Adoption, Answered by an Expert

We asked our Instagram community for their biggest questions about adoption. Then asked Molly Rampe Thomas of Choice Network to answer them.

As part of our new "Ask an Expert" series on Instagram, our community of dads and dads-to-be sent us their questions on adoption in the United States. Molly Rampe Thomas, founder of Choice Network, answered them.


Will I face discrimination as a gay man if I want to adopt?

The fact that you have to ask this question in 2019, is so incredibly infuriating, but it's a good one. Doing your research is important. I actually did a blog post on this for Gays with Kids. Also, the Human Rights Campaign has a list of approved agencies, so I think that it always a legit place to start.

HRC list: https://assets2.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/HRC_ACAF_Innovative_Inclusion.pdf?_ga=2.93877214.21960475.1567689181-515107171.1567689181

In the end, discrimination is still real as you know, but finding a team of people who care about you matters – and that is possible!

What is more costly: adoption or surrogacy?

Good question. The national average for domestic infant adoption is $43,000. My families pay anywhere from $30,000-$45,000. I am not an expert on surrogacy but have heard the average cost can be anywhere from $90,000-$130,000 (editor's note: check out our surrogacy guide). I think the difference more is that with adoption, as long as you can handle the ups and downs, you will end up with a child. Surrogacy success rates are much lower (though there are benefits – #not trying to be a hater). Also, adopting through the foster care system is almost always close to free. I encourage families to at least open their heart to research that option too (I would hate myself if I did not add that!).

What is the best place to begin? We're talking about it but haven't started.

I believe the best place to begin is by talking to other gay families who have adopted. Find a community of people who you trust to be there from beginning to end. Gays with Kids is an awesome place to start, and if you want a more personal introduction to other families, I am happy to connect you. Secondly, go to organizations you trust for referrals. Here locally, every LGBTQ serving organization sends families my way. Also nationally, as I have already stated, HRC has a list of approved agencies. Then from there, check out any referrals made and solidify your decision when you see they are screaming inclusivity.

How much is adoption?

The price can vary, but the national average for families wanting to adopt an infant is $43,000. With my agency, it is $30,000-$45,000. There are grants and funding opportunities available as well as tax credits. And, as I always make sure to mention, adopting through the foster care system is free.

What is the process like for adopting a baby?

With most agencies you start with an initial meeting. After that you are able to begin the homestudy process. The homestudy usually consists of a set of documents, trainings, and interviews. The documents needed can include things like background checks, reference letters, medical statements, financial docs, home inspections, etc. Once the homestudy is complete, you build your profile (we do ours online, because I think printed anything is old school). After the profile goes live, you begin the "wait" which can take anywhere from a day to 2+ years. After a pregnant person chooses you, the wait is over and you are considered matched. After you are matched, you create a plan for placement that includes a legal plan, hospital / birthing plan, and openness plan to prepare for the baby being born. Once the baby is born, there is normally a waiting time (anywhere from 24 hours to 3 days or more) until official placement can happen (though the baby almost always goes home with you from the hospital). After official placement happens, you enter the time where post placement supervision occurs. This includes visits from your agency to make sure the placement is going well (which it will be). Once the post placement period is over, finalization happens and the adoption is complete. I am realizing this could be a full blog post! Homestudy, wait, match, placement, post placement and finalization – are the normal steps to getting your babe.

How do we get the process started? It feels overwhelming

Start by talking with other gay families who have adopted. Have real conversations about the super low and super high moments. From there, use them and other organizations you trust to recommend adoption agencies. Each agency is a little different, so each process is a little different. But researching well is important and then from there just knowing - with all of your heart - that you have chosen the right people to lead you matters. If they are good, they will instantly ease your worries and make the process feel less overwhelming.

What are the costs related to an adoption?

Costs include agency and attorney fees as well as legal, medical, and living expense fees for the pregnant person. All of these fees can vary. For example, you may pay no medical expenses if your match has state insurance or you may have to pay co-pays. You also could pay no living expenses (depending on their need and what the state allows) or could pay a high amount of living expenses.

Where do you start? What are the first steps?

I think it is an awesome first step to start here! A community of people you trust to ask questions. Next, choose an inclusive agency. You can do that by recommendations from your community or through HRC or just be researching on your own and finding one that feels right for you. After that, you meet with the agency and begin your process. Here is a link to the process for our families, just so you can get an idea of what it might look like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qD4cKl_xqk8&feature=youtu.be

Can non-citizen residents adopt in the US?

Yes, it is possible for non-U.S citizens to adopt. In most cases, it is still done under domestic state adoption laws. Thanks for asking this!

Is the process still pretty hard to get "approved"? And does it still take years?

I would say no. Foster care and international adoption is harder to get approved than domestic infant adoption. With my agency, we move as fast as our families do. I think this is a great question for the agency you choose though too.

What is done / available to make adoption more affordable for middle class families?

Loans, grants and fundraising are avenues many families use. The adoption tax credit has been a life saver for so many as well. Again, adopting through the foster care system is almost always free. So I encourage families to start their research there first. You may rule it out quickly, but you might be surprised and happy you even considered it!

What is the most common issue that comes up during a homestudy?

The dreaded homestudy – actually in the end, isn't normally as dreadful as expected. For me, I sometimes have issues with families getting documents in. There are very few reasons people would fail the home study though. If someone has been convicted of felony child abuse or neglect, drugs or alcohol abuse, or domestic violence – they would most likely not be able to adopt.

Are there strict income requirements with adoption?

Specific agencies may have income requirements, which would be something you could ask as you are interviewing agencies, but I would say generally there are no income requirements.

Is it generally required to have a couple adoption (vs a single dad)?

Heck no! The pregnant people we serve love our single dads. I don't know the rates nationally, but for us – single dads are placed at the same rate as couples.

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Change the World

'Homosexuality is Wrong' Utah Teacher Tells Boy Who Gave Thanks for His Two Adoptive Dads

The substitute teacher went on to say two men living together is "sinful." She was fired shortly after.

To anyone with a heart, the moment should have done nothing more than bring a tear to the eye. Last week, just before the Thanksgiving break, a substitute teacher in a fifth grade class in Cedar Hills, Utah — just south of Salt Lake City — asked her students to name something they were thankful for this holiday season.

"I'm thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads," said Daniel, one of the boys, when it was his turn.

Rather than grab a tissue to dab her eyes, or ask the classroom to join her in a hearty round of applause to celebrate Daniel finding his forever family, the teacher took it upon herself to impart her personal religious beliefs onto the young boy. "Homosexuality is wrong," the teacher said in front of the class, adding that it was "sinful" for two men to live together.

The teacher, fortunately, was fired from Kelly Services, the substitute staffing company that employed her, quickly after the incident, but the moment is nonetheless receiving widespread attention in the press — no doubt in part because one of the boy's dads, Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars," posted a video clip to his 76,000 Twitter followers with the title: "Our child was bullied."

"It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bisexual, black and white," he said to the New York Times in a follow up interview. "If you're adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life."

Louis also revealed that the moment may not have come to light were it not for three of his son's classmates, who told the principal about the teacher's bigoted comments. His son, Daniel, didn't want to report the incident for fear of getting the teacher into trouble.

Louis expressed thanks that the staffing company responded as quickly as it did following the incident — and also stressed that his neighbors and community have rallied behind he and his family in the days afterward, offering support. He wanted to dispel stereotypes that Utah, because of its social conservatism and religiosity, was somehow inherently prejudiced.

"It doesn't mean that all of Utah is now bad," he told the Times. "This is one person."

It's also true that this type of prejudice is in no way limited to so-called red states, and incidents like these happen daily. LGBTQ parents and our children are subjected to homophobic and transphobic comments in schools, hospitals, stores, airlines and elsewhere as we simply go about living our lives. These moments so often fly under the radar — many classmates don't have the courage, as they fortunately did in this case, to report wrongdoing. Some administrators are far less responsive than they were here — and most of us don't have 76,000 Twitter followers to help make these moments of homophobia a national story.

All that aside, let's also get back to what should have been nothing more than a heartwarming moment — Daniel, a fifth grade boy, giving thanks to finally being legally adopted into a loving family.

Entertainment

Amazon's New "Modern Love" Series Includes Episode on Open Adoption

The episode is loosely based on the New York Times "Modern Love" essay written by sex columnist and activist Dan Savage.

In 2005, Dan Savage, the gay sex columnist, contributed one of the most talked about essays for the Modern Love column in The New York Times. Better known for his acerbic wit and cutting political commentary, Savage exposed a more vulnerable side in this piece, sharing the highs, lows and everything in between that comes from the experience of pursuing an open adoption.

His son DJ's birth mother was experiencing what Savage called a "slo-mo suicide": homeless by choice, in and out of prison, and surrounded by drugs. Though Savage has chosen an open adoption so that DJ's birth mother would be a presence in his son's life, she often disappeared for months and sometimes years at a time without contacting the family, leaving their young son with lots of questions and no satisfying answers.

The piece ends on a heartbreaking note, with Savage simply seeking some sort of resolution. "I'm starting to get anxious for this slo-mo suicide to end, whatever that end looks like," he wrote. "I'd prefer that it end with DJ's mother off the streets in an apartment somewhere, pulling her life together. But as she gets older that resolution is getting harder to picture."

At the time, many interpreted Savage's story as a cautionary tale for those considering open adoptions. But in 2016, on the Modern Love Podcast, he asserted that was not his intention: "DJ's mom is alive and well," Savage said. "She's on her feet. She's housed. We talk on the phone occasionally. She and DJ speak on Mother's Day and on DJ's birthday." He added that he "would hate to have anyone listen to that essay or to read it — which was written at a moment of such kind of confusion and despair — and conclude that they shouldn't do the kind of adoption that we did," Savage said. "I think that open adoption is really in the best interest of the child, even if … it presents more challenges for the parents. So I encourage everyone who's thinking about adoption to seriously consider open adoption and not to be dissuaded by my essay."

Now, Savage's piece is getting the small screen treatment as one of 9 episodes included in Amazon Prime's adaption of the column. The episode inspired by Savage's essay, "Hers Was a World of One," contains some departures from Savage's original story — Savage's character, played by Fleabag's Andrew Scott, adopts a daughter rather than a son, for example, and the episode concludes closer to the upbeat note struck in the Podcast version of hist story than in the column.

Either way, we welcome any and all attention to the complexities of open adoption. Check out the episode (which also randomly includes Ed Sheeran in a couple scenes) and tell us what you think!

News

Adopting Dogs Improves Gay Couples' Relationships, Says Adorable Study

In what may be a "pre-curser to parenthood," 56% of gay and bi couples reported spending more time with their partners after adopting a dog.

As part of what may be the most adorable study you never knew you needed, pet-sitting website Rover.com found that gay and bi couples who adopt dogs reportedly boast stronger relationships as a result — 56% of gay and bi couples said they spent more time with their partners after adopting a dog. More than half of participants also said that owning a dog can help prepare couples for children.

Interestingly, gay and bi couples were also more likely to prepare for potential difficulties in their arrangements — 21% of gay and bi couples reported setting up a "pet-nup" agreement to determine custody of their new pup in case their relationship didn't last. Only 12% of straight couples, in contrast, did the same.

"You can outline the practicalities of what would happen in the event you split from your partner whether you have joint or sole custody," Rover.com dog behaviorist Louise Glazebrook told Australia's QN News. "It's a real tragedy to see breakups results in dogs needing to be re-homed.

There was, however, one clear downside to pet ownership mentioned in the study — 17% of respondents said they have less sex now that they're sharing a bed with their pup.

What to Buy

Shop with a Purpose with Our 2019 Holiday Gift Guide

Want to find amazing gift ideas while *also* supporting LGBTQ-owned and allied businesses? Look no further than our 2019 holiday gift guide!

'Tis the season to show loved ones you care. And what better way to show you care, by also supported our LGBTQ+ community and allies whilst doing it! Shop (LGBTQ+) smart with these great suggestions below.

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Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Newly Out Gay Dad Feels 'Demoted' After Divorce

Cameron Call showed up to his first family Thanksgiving since coming out and getting a divorce — and struggles to find himself "stuck with the singles."

Cameron Call, who came out in summer 2019, has generously agreed to chronicle his coming out journey for Gays With Kids over the next several months — the highs, lows and everything in between. Read his first article here.

Denial is an interesting thing. It's easy to think you're potentially above it, avoiding it, assume it doesn't apply to you because you'd NEVER do that, or maybe you're just simply avoiding it altogether. After finally coming out, I liked to think that I was done denying anything from now on. But unfortunately that's not the case.

And this fact became very clear to me over Thanksgiving.

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Resources

New Report Details the 'Price of Parenthood' for LGBTQ People

A new report by the Family Equality Council takes a deep dive into the current state of cost for becoming a parent as an LGBTQ person

Parenthood is expensive. But parenthood while queer is still prohibitively costly for so many segments of the LGBTQ community interested in pursuing a family, according to a new repot by the Family Equality Council, titled, "Building LGBTQ+ Families: The Price of Parenthood."

Among the more interesting findings was this one: the cost of family planning is relatively similar for all LGBTQ people, regardless of income level. This shows "that the desire to have children exists regardless of financial security," the report's authors conclude.

Research for the report was conducted through an online survey of 500 LGBTQ adults over the age of 18, and was conducted between July 11-18, 2018. For comparison, the survey also included 1,004 adults who did not identify as LGBTQ.

Other interesting findings of the report include:

  • 29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, and error associated with question-wording and response options.29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Regardless of annual household income, 45-53% of LGBTQ+ millennials are planning to become parents for the first time or add another child to their family. Those making less than $25,000 a year are considering becoming parents at very similar rates as those making over $100,000.
  • Data from the Family Building Survey reveals that LGBTQ+ households making over $100,000 annually are considering the full range of paths to parenthood, from surrogacy and private adoption to foster care and IVF. The most popular options under consideration in this income bracket are private adoption (74% are considering), foster care (42%), and IVF or reciprocal IVF (21%). At the other end of the economic spectrum, for LGBTQ+ individuals in households making less than $25,000 annually, the most commonly considered paths to parenthood are intercourse (35% are considering), foster care (30%), and adoption (23%).

What to Buy

A Gift Guide for LGBTQ Inclusive Children's Books

Need some ideas for good LGBTQ-inclusive children's books? Look no further than our gift guide!

Every year we see more books released that feature our families, and we're here for it! We're especially excited for the day when diverse and LGBTQ+ inclusive books are less of "the odd one out" and rather considered part of every kids' everyday literacy.

To help us reach that day, we need to keep supporting our community and allies who write these stories. So here's a list of some of the great books that need to be in your library, and gifts to the other kids in your lives.

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