LGBT adoption bill would help children
On Friday, Sen. Kristin Gillibrand, D-NY, announced that she will introduce a new adoption discrimination bill called “The Every Child Deserves a Family Act.” If passed, the bill would prohibit adoption discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.
According to Gillibrand, “by removing all barriers for LGBT families to serve as foster parents, New York State has increased its foster parent pool by 128,000 prospective parents. This legislation would open thousands of new foster and adoptive homes to children ensuring they are raised in loving families.”
A version of the legislation was introduced in the House in May by Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., and has received bipartisan support.
It is far past time for such legislation. It is well known that there are more children in the adoption and foster care system than adults to take care of them. The National Survey of Family Growth estimates that for each family seeking to adopt there are 3.3 children waiting to be adopted. This time last year there were over 400,000 children in the foster care system with 107,000 children awaiting adoption in the US. They will wait an average of 37 months before being placed with adoptive parents.
Despite the dearth of available placements, many US states still discriminate against prospective parents. Five US states outright prohibit same-sex adoption, and ambiguous laws in 28 other states facilitate discrimination against same-sex couples, unmarried couples and other potential adoptive homes.
Detractors claim that being raised by same-sex parents will damage children psychologically or influence their sexuality later in life. But there is no evidence to justify denying these children loving homes. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, decades of research “shows that children with gay and lesbian parents do not differ from children with heterosexual parents in their emotional development or in their relationships with peers and adults.”
Interestingly, the researchers found that the only additional challenge that these children faced was bullying and discrimination within their communities.
Gillibrand’s bill coincides with the release of a new report from the Family Equality Council, Center for American Progress and others. The report, entitled “All Children Matter,” focuses on how discriminatory adoption laws and practices harm children. The report finds that indirect discrimination, such as restrictions on unmarried couples, prolongs the wait times for children to be placed in homes.
The AACAP study found that the less time a child spends in the foster system, the better. Over 30 percent of children in the foster care system have severe emotional and psychiatric problems. Many of these children were removed from abusive situations. Children that grow out” of the adoption system without ever finding a home have higher rates of poverty, early parenthood and incarceration as adults. Gillibrand’s bill will hopefully allow such children to be placed in a loving and supportive environment.
Ultimately, marital status, gender identity and sexuality are not determinants of one’s ability to be a good parent. Responsible adoption services conduct notoriously vigorous assessments to determine if an applicant will be a fit parent.
The adoption system may not be perfect, but prohibiting discrimination can only help more children be placed more successfully and more quickly. If a couple wishes to provide a stable, loving home for a child that desperately needs one, why should their gender or orientation matter?
Emily Brooks is an economics senior and may be reached at [email protected].