HRC Blog

Open Adoption & the Great Leap of Faith

November is National Adoption Month, making it the perfect opportunity to learn more about foster care and adoption resources for LGBT individuals and couples. Throughout National Adoption month, HRC will celebrate LGBT families and their stories of adoption, as told in their own words. Do you have an experience to share? Enter now and your story could be featured on HRC Backstory.

This post comes from Jennifer Norris.

Today we are the proud parents of a nine-year-old daughter, born in September of 2002. Our expanded family includes not only our child, but her birthmother, her birthfather, his fiancé and his parents also. In November 2001 we had suffered through a year of artificial inseminations in hopes of becoming pregnant and were ready to try another path to parenthood. We decided to investigate adoption.

We embraced the world of adoption attending workshops, interviewing adoptive parents of mutual friends and reading books. We found a domestic adoption agency, got a home study started and put together a “Dear Birthmother” letter. Six weeks after our letters were mailed, our friend was sitting in a rehearsal in Philadelphia, when a lesbian woman she had known a very short time sat down next to her and asked if she knew any “gay or lesbian couples who were thinking of adopting.” This woman had been considering adopting our birthmother’s child but had come to the conclusion that it wasn’t a good fit. She didn’t want to leave this pregnant woman without prospective parents and since she had chosen a lesbian couple the first time the woman wanted to find a second lesbian couple.

Within several days we had sent a letter to the birthmother and had started a dialogue on the phone with her. She was thirty-five years old, sixteen weeks pregnant, living on a friend’s couch having recently lost a job as a waitress, and was no longer dating the twenty-four-year-old father of the baby. She was interested in being pregnant, but knew she had no patience for parenting. She wanted to place her child with a gay or lesbian couple because she had some great gay friends and she felt as if they often didn’t get chosen first. She identified with our underdog status.

Five weeks later we flew across the country and met the birthmother. We spent three days together shopping for maternity clothes, eating and getting to know each other. From that point forward we spoke to the birthmother twice a week, building a foundation of trust and support. We were very truthful and careful not to over promise or down play the significance of the intricate relationship we were building which we hoped would last a lifetime.

We were with the birthmother throughout her labor and delivery. While she had chosen not to hold the baby immediately after the birth, she did come and hold her the next morning. We took photos of us all together. She had known all along that parenting wasn’t something she was cut out for and seeing her baby hadn’t changed that. Clearly she was better suited to the role of wonderfully wacky aunt.

In the nine years since the baby was born, we have seen her birthmother once a year for several days at a time. We have talked on the phone frequently. She is our family and we are hers. Our daughter and her birthmother have their own relationship, which is how it should be. On our most recent visit our girl had a sleepover at her birthmom’s. Having an open adoption took a leap of faith that there was enough love for all of us, but our mutual love for our little girl makes it possible. We never forget how generous this woman was to us and to her baby to allow us to be a family, and it makes it all the easier to be generous with her.


The All Children – All Families initiative, launched in 2007, promotes policies and practices that welcome LGBT foster and adoptive parents.  The program seeks to enhance LGBT cultural competence among child welfare professionals and educate LGBT people about opportunities to become foster or adoptive parents to waiting children.  To date, ACAF has 50 participating agencies across the country, and has awarded 16 seals of recognition. In September HRC launched a “50 state strategy,” with the goal of securing at least one ACAF-recognized adoption agency dedicated to working with LGBT families in every state.   More information about the initiative can be found at<./p>

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