Become a Gay Dad

All Children – All Families

An HRC program helping agencies do their best to welcome prospective parents, including gay dads and dads-to-be, into the foster and adoption processes.

The year was 2007 and there was a great divide.

There were scores of agencies trying to find foster and permanent families for children who desperately needed them. There also were many motivated adults, members of the LGBT community, who viewed adoption as their path to parenthood.

But, says Ellen Kahn, director of the Children, Youth & Families Program at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, “Many of them didn't feel welcome or included."

And so countless potential families were kept apart.

“We wanted to figure out what would fill that gap," she explains.

The result was “All Children – All Families," a seal of recognition that for eight years running has been helping child welfare professionals cultivate their ideal — large pools of families in which the children in their care might find an ideal match — by teaching them to cultivate a climate of acceptance and improve their practice with LGBT youth and families.

Of course, some were doing fine in that respect already; they were precisely whom Kahn and cohorts called to the table.

“Those agencies became part of our think tank," she explains. “We asked them to translate what they'd done, their best practices, and put together something that could be brought to scale nationally."

These became the 10 key “Benchmarks of LGBT Cultural Competency." Agencies that work toward meeting these milestones earn the seal and, with that, the visibility within the LGBT community that the respected HRC name affords. At press time 51 had completed the program; another 31 were amid the process.

“The organizations that implement our approach, working with us closely to meet our benchmarks — they've really made something of a culture change." And HRC works with agencies of every size and scope, from small organizations that work solely with infant placement to the entire New Jersey Department of Children and Families' Division of Child Protection and Permanency.

“We've probably trained three-quarters of [its] roughly 900 staffers across the state."

Much of the training, says Kahn, particularly early on, helps people become aware of their unconscious biases. In fact, the very first step is the completion of an online agency self-assessment.

“It's a custom-made tool," notes Kahn. “Some of the questions have to do with very concrete things like discrimination: language in the agency's materials, images on its website and so forth." Others touch on preconceptions that even LGBT-friendly individuals may not realize they have.

“There are case workers who genuinely have no resistance to placing with LGBT folks, but perhaps don't know the best practices or aren't comfortable asking difficult questions."

When did you come out? What was it like? How did you overcome challenges? Are you out at work? With your extended family? If not, how will you have those conversations? When your child has questions about having two dads, if he or she hears comments from other people, how will you address these?

Are such personal questions really necessary?

“Yes, they're pretty darn helpful!" says Kahn, who adds that they are standard for things such as home studies. They also help case workers prepare families for the adoption process. “It helps them think through a lot of important issues."

There is often a hierarchy at work as well. In the more traditional child welfare organizations, Kahn notes, the married, opposite-sex couple is the preferred family. “Next, depending on where you are, come single moms or same-sex couples." But gay men and lesbians aren't necessarily on the same tier."

“Some folks in the field have their suspicions about whether gay men can parent and be nurturing …. And then there's the added nuanced issue of gender expression. There could be more comfort with lesbians who have more traditional ways of expressing their femaleness …. Likewise with gay men. We've actually had very funny conversations about this in training."

Serious, however, is the situation prospective single fathers face, regardless of their orientation. “I think they're the most stigmatized. There's just a lot of suspicion about motives. I really feel for single men who have to step into a system that often doesn't value them."

Role playing in training helps those who do adoption orientations learn how to put attendees of all shades at ease. “For example, if a man asks a question and someone in the audience says, 'A child should have a mother and a father.' What should the trainer do? How do you make that man feel safe and welcome?"

At the very least, she notes, we'd want people to say, 'We have successful foster/adoptive families that span single parents and gay parents and straight parents. Everyone is welcome here.' And then perhaps follow up with that gentleman in a conversation after the meeting. Training teaches these professionals that saying nothing is actually saying a lot."

Marriage equality in 37 states, of course, has moved the ball forward. “But although those who choose to marry can now adopt jointly like any other married couple, it doesn't mean there won't be challenges …."

And she notes that even before the marriage equality train pulled out of the station, “We were engaging organizations in unlikely places too. Some of our lead organizations, our hugest champions, are in places like Tucson and Kansas City and the Orlando area. It's important not to perpetuate the idea that agencies in red states or more conservative parts of the country are not engaged …. Often these agencies, some of which are on the smaller side, become the catalyst for change in their own communities."

The good part is that HRC no longer has to make a hard sell to those whose job it is to find these kids good homes. “All Children – All Families" is an ideal program for agencies that need help navigating.

“[Marriage equality] has opened the door for many agencies to step out from behind a neutral or “Don't Ask, Don't Tell" position to a more engaged, intentional approach to not only abide by the law but do well by their families."

Visit HRC's webpage to learn more about the initiative and see a complete list of participating agencies.

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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, 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."

Become a Gay Dad

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Gestational Surrogacy Legalized in New York State

The Child-Parent Security Act, which legalizes commercial surrogacy in New York State, was included in the 2020 New York State Budget signed by Governor Cuomo

Yesterday, a years-long battle about the state of compensated gestational surrogacy came to an end in New York when the Governor signed into a law the Child-Parent Security Act in the 2020 as part of the state budget.

The effort stalled last year after opponents, including several Democrats, successfully argued that the bill didn't go far enough to protect women who serve as surrogates — even though it included a surrogate "bill of rights," the first of its kind in the country, aimed at ensuring protections.

"Millions of New Yorkers need assistance building their families — people struggling with infertility, cancer survivors impacted by treatment, and members of the LGBTQ+ community," the Family Equality Council said in a statement about the victory. "For many, surrogacy is a critically important option. For others, it is the only option. Passage of the Child-Parent Security Act is a massive step forward in providing paths to parenthood for New Yorkers who use reproductive technology, and creates a 'surrogate's bill of rights' that will set a new standard for protecting surrogates nationwide."

Opponents, led by Senator Liz Krueger, had once again attempted to torpedo legalization efforts this year by introducing a second bill that would legalize surrogacy in New York, but also make it the most restrictive state in the country to do so. "A bill that complicates the legal proceedings for the parents and potentially allows them to lose their genetic child is truly unfortunate," said Sam Hyde, President of Circle Surrogacy, referencing to the bill's 8-day waiting period. He also took issue with the bills underlying assumptions about why women decide to serve as a surrogate. The added restrictions imply that "they're entering into these arrangements without full forethought and consideration of the intended parents that they're partnering with," he said.

The bill was sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay man who became a father via surrogacy, and Assemblymember Amy Paulin, who has been public with her experiences with infertility.

"My husband and I had our two daughters through surrogacy," Holyman told Gay City News. "But we had to travel 3,000 miles away to California in order to do it. As a gay dad, I'm thrilled parents like us and people struggling with infertility will finally have the chance to create their own families through surrogacy here in New York."

"This law will [give intended parents] the opportunity to have a family in New York and not travel around the country, incurring exorbitant costs simply because they want to be parents," Paulin said for her part. It will "bring New York law in line with the needs of modern families."

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