If you're involved in a same-sex relationship, you may be interested in expanding your family through adoption. However, whether you're planning to adopt from the U.S. or abroad, there are a number of additional legal hurdles you'll need to clear as compared to the adoption process for a heterosexual couple. Read on to learn more about the special considerations you'll need to know when considering adoption.
What should you know about adopting from the U.S.?
Although same-sex marriage is now legal in nearly all U.S. states, the adoption laws for same-sex couples (whether married or simply cohabitating) vary widely by state. In at least two states, same-sex couples are not permitted to adopt at all.
However, in the majority of states, you and your spouse or partner will be able to adopt a child. This adoption can be accomplished in one of two ways -- by jointly petitioning the court for adoption by you and your partner, or by either you or your partner adopting as a "single" and then, once the adoption has been finalized, petitioning for a "second parent" adoption. In most states, both joint adoptions and second parent adoptions are determined on an individual basis and then granted (or denied) by a judge.
The path you choose will likely depend on your state's politics. In more conservative states, a second parent adoption may be your best chance of success, while in more progressive states, a joint adoption should go through without a hitch. Although being married to your partner will help your adoption chances, demonstrating a stable, long-term relationship puts you on fairly equal footing.
What about foster-to-adoption?
Many children are able to find forever homes through the foster care system. If you choose to go the foster-to-adopt route, you may be subject to more stringent requirements through the foster care system than you will through the typical adoption process. This heightened standard is normal for all foster parents, not only those in a same-sex relationship. You'll undergo a series of interviews by caseworkers in the foster care system, a home study (to ensure that your home is a safe environment for children), and a background check. The foster care caseworkers may even interview your employers or close friends.
After you've had a successful foster placement and are interested in adopting your foster child, you'll go through a similar process as that outlined above -- either a joint or second parent adoption. The adoption process itself will likely be quicker, as you've already completed many of the preliminary steps (such as a home study) by applying to be a foster parent.
What should you know about adopting abroad?
International adoptions are even more variable than U.S. adoptions -- each country has its own restrictions and regulations on who is able to adopt a child in need. Some countries will prohibit adoptions to single parents, to those over a certain age, or even to those of a certain religion or race.
In addition, many countries still have a very conservative attitude toward the ability of same-sex couples to raise children, and are therefore highly restrictive on adoptions by same-sex couples. Countries that are willing to adopt to a single parent may be an option for a second parent adoption once the child is legally adopted and becomes a U.S. citizen. However, even these countries may frown upon adoptions by same-sex couples, so you may be pressured to conceal your sexual orientation or relationship until the adoption is finalized.
If you're going this route, you'll likely want to seek more info from the services of an adoption or family law attorney, as well as an adoption agency that specializes in same-sex placements.