Some 16 or so states have been considering whether to ban adoptions by gay men and women. So far, only Florida categorically bans adoptions by homosexuals -- in a statute passed in 1977 during Anita Bryant's campaign against homosexuals. Meanwhile, some 119,000 kids await adoption in the U.S.
A report just released by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a prominent adoption policy group, makes the following findings:
**Against a backdrop of increasing public acceptance, social science research concludes that children reared by gay and lesbian parents fare comparably to those of children raised by heterosexuals on a range of measures of social and psychological adjustment.
**Studies are increasing in number and rigor, but the body of research on gay/lesbian parents is relatively small and has methodological limitations. Still, virtually every valid study reaches the same conclusion: The children of gays and lesbians adjust positively and their families function well. The limited research on gay/lesbian adoption points in the same direction.
**Though few states have laws or policies explicitly barring homosexuals from adopting, some individual agencies and workers outside those states discriminate against gay and lesbian applicants based on their own biases or on mistaken beliefs that such prohibitions exist.
**Laws and policies that preclude adoption by gay or lesbian parents disadvantage the tens of thousands of children mired in the foster care system who need permanent, loving homes.
The report is right to note the methodological limitations of many of the studies that have shown that children of gay parents do just as well as children of heterosexual parents. Still, the studies are improving and the latest ones are quite good. While they may not yet fully support the view that homosexual parents are just as good as their heterosexual counterparts, they do support the view that homosexual parents are competent to raise children. They are certainly much better for kids -- including the older and "special needs" kids (e.g., those with illnesses and disabilities) -- who won't otherwise be adopted and will languish in the foster-care system until they "age out." No credible social science evidence suggests they're better off in permanent foster care.
Based on its findings, the report suggests the following policy initiatives:
**Move to end legal and de facto restrictions on adoption by gays and lesbians. This includes working to expand co-parent and second parent adoption, as well as revising agency policies and practices that may impede their consideration as an adoptive resource.
**Develop clear statements in support of such adoptions, recognizing a "don't ask, don't tell" approach disadvantages parents and, ultimately, their children. And develop contacts with the gay/lesbian community in order to engage in genuine, informed outreach.
**Help workers, supervisors, and agency leaders examine their attitudes and beliefs about gay and lesbian parenting, while affirming the value of these families by including them in outreach, training materials, and parent panels.
**Conduct research to inform the development of resources, training, and support to improve post-adoption success. And work to include and educate children in the process, recognizing that they may encounter prejudice if adopted by gay parents.
These seem like sensible recommendations. The report found much confusion in adoption agencies, and among individual child-welfare workers, over whether adoptions by gay parents were even legally permitted. At the very least, states should stop trying to constrict the pool of good parents for children awaiting adoption. A real pro-family, pro-children agenda ought to include making loving and stable home environments available to the kids who need them most, regardless of whether those homes are headed by gay or straight parents.
It's one thing to say that a married mother and father are the ideal environment for raising children; it's another thing entirely to say that no other environment is suitable when that ideal is unavailable, as it often is for children awaiting adoption. The proposals in the states to ban gay adoptions are senseless, cruel, and unsupported by the available evidence. Such bans practically guarantee that some kids will never have a permanent home.
The report was funded by the Gill Foundation and the Human Rights Campaign, which both support equal civil rights for gays.