Half a million children in the U.S. live in foster care, and more than 100,000 await adoption. Finding stable, permanent homes for these youth, “forever families,” is a priority, and a proven way to positive outcomes for youth. Still, it’s up to states to recruit and evaluate potential foster and adoptive parents, and most states turn away viable parents who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Currently three states—Florida, Mississippi and Utah—have outright bans on adoptive parents who are homosexual. Several other states have or are considering policies that would restrict LGBT couples and individuals from fostering or adopting a child. Florida forbids “homosexuals” from adopting; Mississippi bans “same-gender” couples, and Utah bans all unmarried couples.
Some states: California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington DC, actually protect potential adopters by prohibiting sexual orientation from being used as a basis to prevent a prospective applicant from being a adoptive or foster parent.
But throughout most of the country LGBT folks face all kinds of barriers to adoption. This, despite the fact that they are already raising children in significant numbers. According to census figures, gathered by the Williams Institute in a new study released today:
-More than one in three lesbians has given birth, and one in six gay men have fathered a child.
-65,500 adopted children are currently living with a lesbian or gay parent, amounting to four percent of all adopted children in the United States.
-10,300 foster children are living with lesbian or gay parents.
-Nearly 52,000 lesbian and gay households include an adopted child under the age of 18.
The study finds that not only can homosexuals be parents, they can be good parents! They have many of the traits states specifically seek out in foster and adoptive parents: They are, on average, older, more educated and have more economic resources than other foster and adoptive parents.
If states enact laws that prevent such adoptions children currently placed with existing LGBT foster parents would be removed from those families. Nationally, an estimated 9,300 to 14,000 children would be displaced.
Aside from the psychological and other harm that would come from displacement (fewer foster care placements are associated with better school achievement, greater life satisfaction, greater overall stability, more placements with higher rates of juvenile detention, etc.), there is a pure economic argument to be made here for allowing gay foster and adoptive parenting. Like banning gay marriage, the the economic cost of banning LGBT people from adopting and fostering would be significant. Williams Institute estimates that a national ban on gay adoption would result in costs to the foster care system of up to $130 million.
The price to pay, some say, for “family values.”