Adoption is a wonderful way for queer men to build their families — but it can be a long, complicated process. Be sure to explore the following questions before making the commitment.
Adoption is an incredible option for gay, bi and trans men interested in becoming fathers — but many prospective adoptive parents are surprised to find out how complicated the process can be, and can be quickly overwhelmed. Here’s some questions to ask yourself to help determine whether adoption is the right path forward for you. And remember: there are no right or wrong answers.
Are you hoping to parent a newborn or are you open to adopting an older child?
Is it important for you to adopt a newborn? Or are interested in also potentially parenting an older child or children? Your answer to this question will help determine the best adoption path forward for you. The most common way to adopt an infant, for instance, is through private domestic adoption with the help of an agency or attorney. If you hope to adopt an older child, or perhaps even a group of siblings, then you may look into adopting through the foster care system.
“When you’re thinking about foster care adoption, really think about the age of the child that you’re hoping to parent,” said Trey Rabun, Foster Care Services Supervisor at Amara. “If you want a younger child, they’re most likely not going to be ‘legally freed’ yet, so you’re going to have to be on board with supporting the plan of reunification.” That may mean multiple children may enter and leave your home before you’re able to complete a foster-adoption process.
Are you okay putting the birth family’s needs first?
If you hope to adopt a newborn through an agency or attorney, it’s important to keep the interests of your birth family front and center. “This is a process where the pregnant person leads the way,” said Molly Rampe Thomas, Founder of Choice Network. “Are you okay with that?”
Children in foster care, in contrast, will be there because of documented abuse or neglect — the biological families will not have a say in where their children are placed, temporarily or permanently, in the foster care system. Still, the primary goal of foster care is to reunify children with their biological families whenever possible, and it’s important foster parents, even though that hope to adopt permanently, are onboard with that goal. “Children enter foster care through no fault of their own,” said Barnaby Murff, Chief Executive Officer of Extraordinary Families. “But the ultimate goal is to support family reunification wherever possible.”
Are you hoping to parent a child temporarily, or are you looking to build a “forever family”?
Over 400,000 children are in the foster care system at any given moment in the United States — the vast majority of these children will only need temporary housing before being reunified with their biological families. Opening your home to a child with a temporary need of a home is a wonderful parenting experience, but you may also be looking to form your “forever family” through adoption. Roughly a quarter of the children in foster care have been “legally freed” for adoption, meaning they are eligible to join your family permanently, and legally. Otherwise, you can look towards the private domestic adoption or international adoption paths to help you build your “forever family.”
Are you open to parenting a child with special needs, or who may have been exposed prenatally to drugs or alcohol?
Again, children in foster care have been placed there due to documented neglect or abuse — you will need to feel confident in your abilities to parent a child with special parenting needs, then, if you pursue adoption through the foster care system. Infants placed for adoption through private domestic adoption, similarly, may have been exposed prenatally to drugs or alcohol, and may also require special parenting needs. There are many resources available to help — but as a prospective adoptive parent, it will be important to ask yourself if you feel confident in your ability to build the capacity, and seek out the education and training necessary to successfully parent a child with special needs.
Are you willing to have an ongoing relationship with your child’s biological family?
These days, nearly all adoptions — through private domestic adoption or through the foster care system — have some degree of “openness.” This is because we’ve learned, through research, that open adoptions benefit everyone involved: the biological parents, the adoptive parents, and, most importantly, the child.
“These days most adoptions are open adoptions,” said Olivia Pope, Community Outreach and Development Manager at Friends in Adoption. “This means the birth family will have some line of communication with you.”
The degree of openness will be determined through an ongoing negotiation, and no two open adoptions will look exactly the same. But it’s important to know there will very likely be some degree of contact.
CONGRATULATIONS! You've completed Chapter 1: Is Adoption Right for Me?
Or, contact one of the experts interviewed for this article: