Become a Gay Dad

Gay Adoption: All The Terms You Need to Know

Here are a list of terms for gay men, couples and singles, considering adoption.

Though no two adoptions are identical, they do all have one unfortunate thing in common: jargon, jargon and more jargon. For prospective gay dads just about to embark on the adoption process, we've put together a list of common terminology you're likely to encounter throughout your journey.

Did we miss any terms? Leave a comment below and we'll be sure to update the list!

Adoption Glossary

Adoption: A process in which an adult assumes the legal parenting responsibilities for another, usually a minor, from that person's biological or legal parents. The process is permanent and legally binding.

Adoption Agency: A public, private, or religious organization licensed with the state that connects birth parents and children who need families to adoptive parents. Agencies can be either for-profit or not-for-profit.

Adoption Placement: The point in an adoption process where a child begins to live with prospective adoptive parents.

Adoption Subsidies: Funds provided by federal or state governments to help adoptive parents offset some of the costs associated with adopting children who need special services.

“At-risk" Adoption: When adoptive parents accept placement of a child when the birth parents' rights have not yet been legally severed or when the appeal period has not yet expired.

Consent to Adopt: The legal agreement by a biological parent, legal guardian, or agency to relinquish all legal rights and duties to a child. In most states, consent must be in writing and notarized or executed before a judge.

Legal Custody: Someone with legal custody has the right, and legal obligation, to make decisions about a child's care and wellbeing. This includes decisions related to schooling, medical care, and religious upbringing. Even though a foster parent of agency has legal custody over a child, however, biological parents can retain their parental rights and might have full legal custody restored.

Decree of Adoption: The document that must be signed by a judge to finalize an adoption. A decree of adoption formally bestows full parental rights and obligations upon the adoptive parent, and terminates the rights and obligations of the birth parents.

Disruption: A term used to describe the termination of an adoption process prior to the finalization of the adoption. A disruption can happen for any number of reasons. An adoption agency may disrupt the adoption if adoptive parents are not complying with requirements, for instance, or adoptive parents themselves may choose to disrupt the adoption process. Some agencies have begun referring to this process as “re-homing."

Dissolution: A term used to describe the termination of an adoption after the finalization of the adoption. Dissolution is initiated by the adoptive parents, and usually occurs as a result of improper levels of education or information of the part of adoptive parents.

Domestic Adoption: The adoption of an infant from the United States with the help of an adoption agency or attorney.

Federal Adoption Tax Credit: Passed in 1997 under President Bill Clinton, this tax credit helps adoptive families offset the costs of adoption. The credit is applied once per adopted child. Some states also offer tax credits, providing an additional level of support.

Finalization Hearing: The last step in the adoption process, when a court issues a “decree of adoption," thus making the adoption permanent and binding. Depending on the jurisdiction, finalization hearings can take place anywhere between three months to a year after a child is placed with adoptive parents.

Foster Parent: An individual or couple who has temporary care of a child but has no legal rights in determining certain aspects of a child's life. As of now, no state in the country explicitly prohibits LGBT individuals from becoming foster parents. However, some states have taken steps to made the process more inclusive for LGBT foster parents.

Foster to Adopt: This refers to a placement in which the foster care parents plan to fully adopt the child if and when parental rights are terminated. Also called Foster-Adopt.

Guardian ad litem (GAL): A person appointed by a court to investigate what solutions would be “in the best interests of the child" in question. Courts sometimes use GALs to make custody recommendations. The (Latin) phrase ad litem means for the (law)suit."

Hague Adoption: The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (“Hague Convention") is a multi-country treaty enacted in 1993 that provides important safeguards to protect the best interests of children, birth parents, and adoptive parents who are involved in intercountry adoptions. It is designed to combat child trafficking within international adoptions.

Home Study: A process every prospective adoptive parent must complete to be able to legally adopt in the United States. A home study is comprehensive, and typically includes: inspections of the home of the adoptive parents, an evaluation of the relationship between the adoptive parents, the medical history of the adoptive parents, employment verifications, verification of financial status, and criminal background checks.

International Adoption: An international adoption refers to the adoption of a child who is a citizen of one country by adoptive parents who are citizens of a different country. (Very few countries allow adoption by same-sex parents.)

Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC): Established in 1974, the ICPC established uniform procedures to govern the interstate placement of children. In The ICPC requires prospective adoptive parents who are involved in an adoption across state lines to comply with the adoption laws of the child's state of residence.

Independent Adoption: The process of pursuing an adoption without the help of an adoption agency. It is also known as a private adoption. Parents who pursue independent adoptions must still enlist the help of adoption lawyers and other professionals to help with the process. Independent adoptions are not legal in every state.

Joint Adoption: A legal process that allows two unmarried people to petition to adopt a child together at the same time.

Life Book: A resource social workers help adoptive parents create for their children to help explain their background and history. Life books, which are often illustrated, can sometimes be created with the help of birth parents.

Matching: An adoption matching refers to process social workers and other adoption professionals undergo to place a child with adoptive parents. Matches are made on the basis of any number of factors, such as the specific needs of the child and the wishes of the adoptive parents.

Multi-Ethnic Placement Act/Interethnic Placement Act (MEPA/IEPA): Taken together, these two laws, enacted in 1993 and 1996 respectively, remove race, ethnicity, and country of origin from consideration when adoption professionals consider adoption matches.

Open Adoption: A form of adoption where certain information is shared between birth and adoptive parents to maintain some level of connection. In an open adoption the level of contact between birth and adoptive parents can vary widely.

Parental Rights: The rights (such as decision-making abilities) and obligations (such as providing care and financial support) associated with being the legal parent of a child.

Post-Adoption Services: Services sometimes available to adoptive families, from therapists to financial planning, after the successful completion of an adoption.

Post-Placement Supervision: Following the placement of a child, but before the finalization of an adoption, a social worker will complete a series of home visits with the adoptive family. The specifics of post-placement supervision vary by state.

Private Adoption: See Independent Adoption.

Second Parent Adoption: A legal procedure by which a same-sex parent, regardless of whether he or she has a legally recognized relationship to the other parent, is able to adopt her or his partner's biological or adoptive child without terminating the first parent's legal status.

Special Needs Child (or Children): A child (or children) who may have mild to severe physical or mental needs. Some adoptive families of special needs children are eligible for subsidies to help accommodate the needs of the children.

Termination of Parental Rights: A legally binding process that eliminates a parent's rights and obligations to a child.

Waiting Children: A term used to describe children who will not return to their biological and legal guardians, and need permanent, adoptive homes.

Workplace Adoption Benefits: Benefits (such as reimbursements and parental leave) offered by some employers to employees who choose to adopt.

For more, read our article “6 Adoption Tips That Every Prospective Gay Dad Needs to Know."

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

Check out our article "7 Children's Books About Gay Dad Adoptive Families."

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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.

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This episode is dedicated to all the parents out there that are going through or have gone through similar situations.

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This European Couple Became Dads Through a U.K.-Based Surrogacy Program

Janno, from Estonia, and Matthias, from Belgium, were accepted into the "Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy" Program.

Janno Talu, an accountant, and Matthias Nijs, an art gallery director, were born in different parts of Europe. Janno, 39, is from Estonia, and Matthias, 28, is from Belgium. Their paths crossed when the two moved to London, each from their different corners of the European Union.

Janno relocated to London earlier than Matthias, when he was 24, and his main reason for the move was his sexuality. "Although Estonia is considered one of the more progressive countries in Eastern Europe, when it comes to gay rights, it is still decades behind Western society in terms of tolerance," said Janno. "And things are not moving in the right direction." In 2016, same-sex civil union became legal, but the junior party in the current coalition government is seeking to repeal the same-sex partnership bill. "In addition," Janno continued, "they wish to include the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the country's constitution. Even today, there are people in Estonia who liken homosexuality to pedophilia, which is why I decided to start a new life in the UK, where I could finally be myself."

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Interested in Surrogacy? Check Out These Bay Area Events This Weekend

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When Trystan Reese found out protesters were planning to show up to an event in Boston he was presenting at, he put out a call to his community for help — and gay dads showed up.

A couple months ago, Trystan Reese, a gay, trans dad based in Portland, Oregon, took to Instagram to share a moving, if incredibly concerning, experience. Reese, who works with Family Equality Council, was speaking at an event in Boston, and learned before his appearance that a group of protesters were planning to attend.

"As a trans person, I was terrified to be targeted by anti-LGBTQ people and experienced genuine fear for my own safety," Trystan wrote. In response, he did what many LGBTQ people would do in a similar situation — reach out to his community in Boston, and ask for their support. "And they came," he wrote. But it wasn't just anyone within the LGBTQ community that came to his defense, he emphasized — "you know who came? Gay men. Gay dads, to be exact. They came, ready to block people from coming in, ready to call building security, ready to protect me so I could lead my event. They did it without question and without reward. They did it because it was the right thing to do."

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