Posted & filed under Family Law.

Believe it or not, there are still some states in this country where gay and lesbian couples are banned from adopting children. Luckily, for the children languishing in foster care in Washington, D.C., that isn’t the case. To some, that sounds like a controversial statement. To attorneys like me who represent both children in foster care waiting and wanting a permanent home with parents who love and want them, and same-sex couples who want a child to love and parent, it is a triumph. We all know about the many adoptive couples who want children that are easily adoptable: the babies; the toddlers; white younger children; the cute, the cuddly; the children who have experienced no trauma. People wait years for children such as these. Most children up for adoption do not fit into this narrow category. They are older; they are children of color; they have experienced trauma; they have been moved from foster home to foster home; they have trust issues, and it may take them longer to fit into a home. They may have other special needs; they are still cute and cuddly, but maybe not in a traditional way. And yet they crave and deserve a permanent and loving home too. And they don’t care whether their adoptive parents are straight or gay. They just want to be loved.

As of 2010, there were more than 408,000 children in foster care and 107,000 of these children were waiting to be adopted. Of the 107,000 children waiting to be adopted in 2010, 60 percent had been waiting more than two years, while 16 percent had been waiting more than five years for a permanent home.[1] There are more than 500 Washington, D. C. children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted. Many same sex couples understand that adopting children from the foster care system is a way for them to become parents in a non-traditional way. In many instances it is a great fit. In my view, and this is simply my perspective based on my professional encounters with same sex couples who adopt from foster care, same sex couples have proven to be phenomenal parents. Keep in mind, I am not saying that there aren’t any phenomenal heterosexual adoptive couples, or that there aren’t some less than stellar same sex couples who adopt. I am simply saying that in my practice, I have come across many same sex adoptive parents that have been extraordinary parents.

Adopting kids in foster care is a different path than a traditional adoption. Adoptive parents through foster care have to become licensed foster parents first and the child is initially placed with them in a foster care capacity. My early assessment of most same sex couples at this initial placement stage is that they are “parents on steroids.” They are immediately involved, engaged and immersed in every aspect of their child’s life. It is clear that they want to be parents. Where before, it was in many instances challenging to get prior foster parents to go to school meetings, counseling sessions, or even to come to status court hearings concerning the child, the same sex couples do it all and then some. It is both amazing and professionally fulfilling to watch. You go from seeing children that are withdrawn, angry and suspicious of adults to seeing children that are slowly opening up and trusting and being exposed to a variety of new experiences. I am not talking about the extraordinary; I am just talking about ordinary things that you would have expected children eight years or older to have experienced. The simple things: eating at an ethnic restaurant; a first plane ride; having a parent show up regularly at parent/teacher conference; a big birthday party; a summer vacation; being tucked into bed at night.

Children deserved to loved, to have a permanent home, to have involved, engaged parents that really want to be parents, and to feel safe. It does not matter to them whether they have parents based on the traditional model; they just want parents. If more same sex couples want to become parents in a non-traditional way, I implore them to look into adopting children in foster care. It has proven to be a very rewarding experience for many who have embarked on that path. In Washington, D.C., you can contact the Child and Family Services Agency for additional information to get started on the road to parenthood.

[1] U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, “Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Report,” 2011, research/afcars/tar/report18.htm