Bias still exists but adoption is a viable option for homosexuals

November 13, 2002

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Discrimination based on sexual orientation still exists, but many adoption agencies are open to placing children with gay and lesbian parents, according to a new study by researchers at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

The study, "Adoption Agency Perspectives on Lesbian and Gay Prospective Parents: A National Study," is featured in the December issue of Adoption Quarterly (volume 5, issue 3).

The study features results of the first nationwide survey of adoption agencies focusing on attitudes and practices by agencies regarding homosexual adoption. The survey was mailed to 891 adoption program directors in public and private adoption agencies. Findings are based on 214 completed surveys received from 194 private agencies in 45 states and Washington, D.C., and 20 from public agencies in 13 states.

"Sixty-three percent of the respondents said their agency accepted adoption applications from homosexual individuals, and nearly 38 percent indicated they had made at least one adoption with a gay or lesbian adult during the two-year study period, from 1995 to 1996," said author David Brodzinsky, an associate professor in the department of psychology and director of the Foster Care Counseling Project at Rutgers.

Brodzinsky found two key factors that impacted willingness to consider homosexuals as adoptive parents: the religious affiliation of the agency and the type of children the agency placed.

According to the survey, agencies operating under fundamentalist Christian beliefs were "never" willing to accept applications from homosexuals. Agencies affiliated with the Catholic Church were "seldom" willing to accept applications; only 14 percent said they would. Less than half (42 percent) mainstream Protestant-affiliated agencies and 92 percent of Jewish-affiliated agencies were willing to accept applications from gay and lesbian individuals.

Public agencies were 100 percent willing, except in states that ban homosexual adoption, and 77 percent of private, nonaffiliated agencies said they would accept applications from gay and lesbian individuals.

"Some religiously affiliated agencies didn't have direct edicts against homosexual adoption. Instead, they had policies of only placing children with married couples, which meant they didn't accept adoption applications from single parents or homosexual adults," explained Brodzinsky.

The study revealed that agencies handling children with special needs, such as those with medical, mental or emotional problems, older minority children and those in large sibling groups, were more likely to accept applications from homosexuals than all other agency types. In contrast, those focused on placing domestically born infants and toddlers were least likely to accept these applications. Adoption agencies focused on international placements were willing to accept applications depending on restrictions placed by the country of origin, such as China, which prohibits homosexual adoption.

"We still have some major barriers to parenthood and adoption for lesbian and gay individuals," said Brodzinsky. "Lots of stereotypes and prejudice still exits, and there is a long way to go, but we found that most agencies are willing to accept gay and lesbian applicants."

Despite this finding and the fact that more people are applying as openly gay or lesbian adoptive parents, many agencies still follow an informal "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.

In reviewing agency practices, Brodzinsky identified a need to develop better training for agency personnel to understand the unique social and family issues surrounding adoption by gay and lesbian parents, and to create pre- and post-adoption support services specifically geared toward this population. In addition, he noted the lack of dedicated or active recruitment efforts geared toward encouraging homosexuals to become adoptive parents.

Brodzinsky noted that a follow-up study (yet to be published) he conducted with a larger sample of agencies from 1990 to 2000 for the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York, confirms the majority of his findings.

"With over a half-million children in foster care and more than 100,000 waiting to be placed for adoption, the need for more adoptive parents is evident," said Brodzinsky. "There is growing recognition that homosexuals have the same capacities and can provide the same quality of care to children as heterosexuals, and the children do quite well. Homosexuals are a valuable parenting resource for raising children that need families."

Rutgers University

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