Frequently Asked Questions From Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender

Series: Factsheets for Families
Author(s): Child Welfare Information Gateway
Year Published: 2011

The landscape for LGBT adoption is changing, with an increasing number of
LGBT individuals and couples choosing to build families through adoption. Many
agencies, both public and private, welcome the LGBT community. Leading child
welfare organizations believe that prospective LGBT parents are an excellent
resource for children and youth in need of a permanent family.1 However, specific challenges continue to face many
LGBT prospective adoptive parents; they vary depending on where you live and
whether you adopt as a single person or a couple.

The adoption process can seem daunting for anyone, straight or gay, and it
can require a significant commitment of time, emotional energy, and financial
resources, depending on the path you take. To make the experience as positive as
possible, do your homework before getting started. Being informed is the first
step in the process. The following answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs)
can help you in this early stage of your journey in adoption.2

Q: How do I find a welcoming agency?

A: Finding an agency that is genuinely welcoming and affirming is the key to
a successful adoption experience. Begin by asking other LGBT adoptive parents
for feedback on the agencies they used and whether they would recommend a
particular agency. Conduct your own Internet research by reviewing agency
websites for images and language that speak to the LGBT community, for example,
photos of two-mom or two-dad families, or client nondiscrimination statements.
You can call an agency directly and ask about its policies or request an
in-person meeting with a staff person to learn more about the agency’s track
record with LGBT families and to get a sense of how open they are. If you live
in a jurisdiction that has laws restricting LGBT adoption, ask the agency how it
navigates those challenges. Be sure that the agency can verify that it has
placed children with LGBT families, and ask to speak to some of their LGBT

Other topics to explore with agencies are:

  • The number of LGBT families the agency has worked with, what percentage of
    all families that represents, and how long LGBT families wait to be matched with
    a child or children
  • How the agency, if the agency places infants, represents LGBT families to
    expectant parents considering adoption for their infants
  • How the agency’s intercountry program, if it has one, works with LGBT


Q: What States allow LGBT individuals or same-sex couples to foster or

A: Most States do not have laws or formal policies that address the
eligibility of LGBT individuals or couples to adopt or serve as foster parents.
Instead, child welfare professionals and judges make placement decisions that
should be in the best interests of the child. A few States have laws that
restrict adoption or fostering by gay people (for example, Mississippi). In
States where same-sex couples can marry legally they can also adopt. In many
other States, sexual orientation or same-sex relationship status does not
exclude couples from adopting.

Some States will allow singles to adopt but will not allow same-sex
or unmarried couples to adopt. If one member of a couple chooses to
adopt as a single parent because the State won’t allow second-parent adoption,
the parents may want to find a way to complete a second-parent adoption in order
to provide the child with legal protection.

Before you begin your adoption process, you should research the laws in your
jurisdiction. Seek consultation from your State equality organization or a
national LGBT organization if you are unclear. See Child Welfare Information
Gateway’s Who May
Adopt, Be Adopted, or Place a Child for Adoption?

Q: Should I disclose my sexual orientation or transgender status? If so,

A: This is perhaps the most daunting aspect of the adoption process,
particularly if you live in a State with restrictive laws or if you are not sure
of your agency’s policy. Full disclosure in adoption is optimal and advised,
whether it’s regarding sexual orientation, family history, or other aspects of
your personal life and background. LGBT adoptive parents often worry that
disclosure may disqualify them as adoptive parents or lead to greater scrutiny
as applicants. For single LGBT adults, it may seem irrelevant or unnecessary to
disclose this information. Because the decision to place a child with you is
made by someone else—a birth parent or agency professional—it is important and
most ethical that the decision be based on a full, honest picture of who will be
raising the child.

It is best to disclose early in the process, perhaps by calling an agency and
stating that you are a gay man, or a lesbian couple, or a transgender
woman—whatever the situation is—and gauging the response over the phone. If you
do not disclose right away, talk with your social worker during the home study
or family assessment about your sexual orientation and relationship status,
whether you are single or in a committed relationship. In States where joint
adoption is not allowed, you may need to identify one person to be the primary
applicant and one to be the “other member of household.” Ideally, the agency,
and the home study social worker in particular, should be aware of your sexual
orientation, gender identity, and relationship status to help you navigate the
particular challenges in the city, county, or State where you reside.

If there is a compelling reason why you are not able to disclose—for example,
you live in a State that bans gay adoption, or you are pursuing intercountry
adoption from a country that will not place with LGBT families—consult with an
LGBT family law attorney or LGBT advocacy organization before moving forward.
There are often ways to resolve these difficult scenarios.

There can be irreversible consequences if you do not disclose your sexual
orientation. For instance, withholding information or not being truthful could
exclude an applicant from the process no matter how good the reason. Also, it is
vital that you and your partner have the benefit of the best adoption
preparation possible. Without an honest relationship between you and your
agency, you could miss essential information or a preparation opportunity.
Effective preparation and postadoption support offer the most promising basis
for a successful placement for the child and the parents.

Q: What should I expect from the home study or family assessment?

A: All types of families may find the home study intrusive; however, this
assessment allows the agency or social worker to best match your family’s
strengths to the needs of a particular child or children. It’s good to keep that
thought in mind when preparing for your home study.

The home study can create added anxiety for LGBT individuals and couples,
particularly when there are concerns about the agency policies and questions
about disclosure. Again, by sharing early on that you are an LGBT individual or
couple, there is a greater likelihood that the home study social worker will be
better prepared to conduct your family assessment.

Many LGBT applicants wonder if they should “straighten up” the home before
the social worker visits by taking down certain photos or artwork or removing
some books from view. These thoughts are normal for all prospective parents,
straight or gay, in an effort to make the best possible impression on the social
worker and prepare the home environment for the arrival of a child.

The goal of the home study or family assessment is to learn about you as an
individual and as a couple, if applicable, to assess the strengths and
capacities you would bring to parenting a child or children needing a family,
and to help prepare you for the transition to parenthood. It is also the process
through which the social worker determines that the home is safe and secure for
a child. The home study process can feel invasive and overwhelming. It is
important to remember that it’s like that for all adoptive parents, regardless
of sexual orientation, and that the best approach is to be honest, open, and
authentic. If you feel at any point that your home study social worker is asking
inappropriate questions, is uncomfortable with you, or is being biased in the
assessment, contact a supervisor or agency administrator.

Q: What do I do if I think an agency is discriminating or being unfair?

A: As noted above, if you feel at any time that a particular agency staff
person is being unfair, disrespectful, or discriminatory, you should share your
concerns first with that person. There may be a simple misunderstanding that can
be corrected immediately. If you do not get a reasonable response, go to the
supervisor or agency administrator.

Keep in mind that while there is still discrimination, and the potential for
being treated unfairly definitely exists, what you might perceive as
discrimination or homophobia may be something else. For example, you may feel
that you are not getting calls returned because you are gay, or that as a
same-sex couple you are waiting longer for a placement than the heterosexual
couples in your support group. What may be true, however, is that the social
workers at the agency do not return anybody’s calls quickly because
there is a high workload for the staff and that the heterosexual couples are
waiting just as long as the same-sex couples. This would be a good opportunity
to join a support group or form one to interact with other couples who are
waiting, find out about their experiences, and prepare for the type of child or
children you hope to adopt.

It is important to speak up when you feel something is unfair, to report up
the chain of command, and to be open to the possibility that you may be wrong.
In cases of explicit discrimination, contact an LGBT advocacy

Q: How do I find support during the waiting process?

A: Many agencies have support groups for waiting families, so the first step
is to ask for a referral to those groups, ask if other LGBT families are
currently in the group, and find out if the facilitator is LGBT-competent and
friendly. In addition, there are many LGBT parent support groups across the
country, and you can find adoptive and preadoptive families to connect with. The
waiting period is a great opportunity to begin networking with other LGBT and
adoptive parents who can help you build a support network as you transition to
parenthood. If you are not able to find a group in your local community or
through your local agency, you can explore online discussion forums for waiting
families and for LGBT families in general. You may even consider starting a
group if one does not exist.

Q: What do experienced LGBT parents have to offer as advice?

A: Most LGBT parents say that they benefit from being part of a larger
community of LGBT parents and that it is important for their children to see
other families like theirs, especially as they get older. LGBT adoptive parents
often have networks that overlap, some of which are tied to the adoption
community and some to the LGBT community, but there is a lot of common ground.
Experienced parents recommend that you research the LGBT policies of your local
day care facilities or schools and identify pediatricians and other service
providers who are LGBT friendly. If one member of a couple has to adopt as a
single parent because your State won’t allow second-parent adoption, you may
want to find a way to do a second-parent adoption to provide your child with
legal protection. Finally, experienced parents recommend that you think about
how you will talk to your family, friends, neighbors, teachers, and others about
your family and how you will answer challenging questions that may arise.

Adoption professionals can find more information and resources in Child
Welfare Information Gateway’s Working With
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Families in

These FAQs were developed by Child Welfare Information Gateway, in
partnership with Ellen Kahn, Director of the Human Rights Campaign Family
Project. This document is made possible by the Children’s Bureau, Administration
on Children, Youth and Families, Administration for Children and Families, U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services.

Speak Your Mind