If you are considering adopting a child, you are in very good company! There are an estimated 2 million LGBTQ+ adults in the U.S. who want to parent children, many via adoption. There are numerous ingredients that go into successful adoptions. Here are 8 questions you should ask yourself before you begin the process. If you are comfortable with your answers to these questions, congratulations! You are probably ready to begin the adoption process.
Public child welfare agencies are government entities that provide a safety net for families. Each county and jurisdiction has its own department of social services responsible for caring for children and youth in foster care and those unable to be reunited with their first families are often available for adoption. Many state, county and city public child welfare offices recognize that LGBTQ+ applicants are excellent prospects to parent youth in their care. The disadvantages of public agencies are the bureaucracies involved and the lengthy period it can take to complete the process. The advantages are the very low (or no) cost to adopt and the occasional, short-term financial stipends to help you support your new child.
Private agencies are licensed and regulated by the state they reside in and are often non-profits. Many LGBTQ+ adults choose to adopt through private adoption agencies, especially those agencies with demonstrated sensitivity to LGBTQ+ applicants. While these adoptions can be costly, applicants are often treated very well and can exercise some control over the type of infant or youth they adopt.
Think carefully about the type of child you feel most able to parent. Please remember that adopting a child is primarily for the child’s benefit, not yours. If she has physical, emotional, or mental challenges, will she eventually thrive with you as her parent? If he has a high need for attention, are you prepared to let him have the spotlight? Would you consider adopting a child who comes with a sister or brother? Are you adamant that you must adopt a girl, not a boy or vice versa? Are you prepared to parent a straight teenager? Or are you pretty open to the kinds of children needing a safe, loving and permanent home? The more flexible you are, the greater the chances of success for both you and your child!
These investments are far more than buying clothes, giving a weekly allowance, or saving for college, although those are important. Can you provide unconditional love to a child? Are you willing to get interested in activities for which your child shows aptitude? Can you be your child’s educational advocate with the school system? Can you lovingly establish, and enforce, reasonable limits? Are you ready to be completely out to your child? If you are partnered, will both of you share these commitments to your new child? If you answered yes to these, you are probably ready to make the necessary investments in the child.
Some children, especially those older than age 5 or so, have a hard time bonding with, and trusting new adults. Are you ready for your new older child to have a very healthy dose of skepticism about you and your commitment to them? Are you prepared to wait for them to return your love?
Will your friends and family embrace the new family unit? Does your community (i.e., LGBTQ+ resources, spiritual center, schools) offer events and groups that could be valuable to you and your child? Is there an active LGBTQ+ parent support group in the area?
All agencies, public and private, will require you to complete some counseling before and after you adopt. Do you welcome that support or do you view it as intrusive and unwelcome?
The worker will evaluate you, your home, financial records, employers, family, medical and psychiatric history, criminal background and so forth to see if you are likely to become a good parent. It’s important to understand that the agency worker is not looking for perfect parents. She or he is looking for your honesty and a reasonably good match with a child in need of a loving home.
For instance, have you separated from or lost a partner, moved across the country, experienced the death of someone close, lost your job, married your new love, suffered a significant illness or accepted major new job duties? If so please let your significant life events settle in for a while, then re-evaluate whether or not you still want to adopt. Avoid adopting as a remedy for or as an add-on to another major life event. The adoption process is a major life event in its own right. It is unwise to couple it with another life event.