There are nearly 438,000 children navigating the turbulent waters that is the foster care system in the United States. The same system which can be argued is a broken system. These children are typically bounced from foster home to foster home, for years at a time, suffering countless traumas both physically and emotionally while waiting to be permanently adopted by a loving family. Although same-sex adoption is legal in all 50 states, conservative groups with religious and biased antiquated views continue to make it difficult for same-sex couples to adopt, robbing children in the foster care system the chance of finding a safe, nurturing, and permanent loving home.
Life as a child in the United States foster care system is not an easy one. The average age that a child enters the foster care system is right around 3 years old (Galehouse et al, 2010; Sadock & Sadock, 2009). These are the most formative years for a child. Much of a child’s personality, brain formation, learning processes, and the way they cope with stresses like emotional and physical trauma, are developed during these years. During these early years in the system, there is a lot of instability.
Placements consist of different types of living arrangements and can include, traditional foster family care, family or relative foster care, group homes, residential centers, and emergency shelters (Sigrid 2004). Add the trauma of being taken away, abandoned, or losing the only parental figures they knew whether it was by neglect, illness, or death will undoubtedly cause harmful effects for any child no matter the age. In most cases, they’re typically ripped from their siblings and placed in different homes or groups, causing what can only be crippling emotional trauma and confusion. Not to say that all foster parents are evil but there is an insurmountable number of stories and evidence of malfeasance against many foster parents whether it be emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. These kids deserve better. The sexuality of potential adoptive parents should not be a factor when all these children need is a loving, safe, and nurturing environment.
Same-sex couples are legally allowed to adopt children in all 50 states, but that’s not to say that all states make it easy for that to happen. In states like Maryland and Massachusetts, where they have laws that prohibit adoption agencies from discriminating based on sexual orientation, there are also states like South Dakota, which have laws that create religious exemptions for adoption providers, allowing agencies to refuse adoption to same-sex couples based on religious views (Harris 2017).
Denying a child, the chance to be adopted by a loving family because of religion seems counterintuitive when a lot of times these children are suffering terrible traumas in the foster care system. There are many studies that have found children that are raised in same-sex households grow up to be just fine without any difference than children who were raised in heteronormative homes. One study performed by The National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS), concluded that 25-year-olds who grew up with two moms have ‘no significant differences in measures of mental health’ compared to peers raised by heterosexual parents (Gartrell 2018). Dr. Gartrell goes on to say,
When I began this study in 1986, there was considerable speculation about the future mental health of children conceived through donor insemination and raised by sexual minority parents. We have followed these families since the mothers were inseminating or pregnant and now find that their 25-year-old daughters and sons score as well on mental health as other adults of the same age.
Proponents of same-sex adoption bans argue that a child being adopted deserves to be raised by a mother and a father. That a child raised outside of those parameters will somehow grow up flawed or with less of an advantage. Gilles Bernheim, the Chief Rabbi of France, said;
Thus, he needs to know that he issues from the love and the union between a man, his father, and a woman, his mother, thanks to the sexual difference between them. Even adopted children know that they originate from the love and the desire of their parents, even when these are not their biological parents. (Bernheim 2013)
The truth is that the children sitting in a foster home at this very moment, bouncing from group home to group home, awaiting the day that they get adopted have neither a mother nor a father. The argument that they should have to wait until a moral couple that comprises of a woman and a man is preposterous. Childhood doesn’t last very long, especially when these kids are in a foster care environment. The truth is they have to grow up way before their time, whether they want to or not. Making it difficult for same-sex couples to adopt based on other people’s moralities is wrong and unjust. The longer these children are in the system, the worse that same system will eat them up, robbing them of a true and happy childhood alongside parents that love them regardless of those parent’s sexual orientation.
If you were to ask a foster child whether they wanted to stay in an abusive system that didn’t give them an opportunity to experience love, a safe home, a real chance at life or if they would rather have a loving family regardless of what sexual orientation those parents were, which do you believe they would choose? At the end of the day what matters is that we are safe, we are loved, we are allowed to live a happy life. Same-sex couples will continue their fight for their chance to become loving parents to these children forsaken by the same system that was supposed to protect them because that’s what a loving family does, gay or straight.
- Bernheim, Gilles. “Homosexual Marriage, Parenting, and Adoption.” First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion & Public Life, no. 231, Mar. 2013, pp. 41–50. EBSCOhost, db16.linccweb.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=85516032&site=ehost-live.
- Galehouse, P., Herrick, Ch., and Rapyhael, S. (February, 2010). Children on Foster Care. International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing. 25:1:36-39
- Gartrell, Nanette. “National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study – Mental Health of Adult Offspring | NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine, 2018, www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1804810?query=featured_secondary.
- Harris, Elizabeth A. “Same-Sex Parents Still Face Legal Complications.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 June 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/06/20/us/gay-pride-lgbtq-same-sex-parents.html.
- Sigrid, J. (2004). Why do foster care placements disrupt? An investigation of reasons for placement change in foster care. Social Service Review, 78, 601–627