Category Archives: In the Media

If Kids Need Families, Why Do We Reject Parents?

September 15, 2011

To read this column on The Huffington Post, go to:

Politicians love to say it. Child-welfare professionals work mightily to practice it. American laws and practices promote its essential truth: every boy and girl deserves to live in a permanent, loving family.

Yet tens of thousands of children in the U.S. spend their lives in temporary (i.e., foster) care, unable to return to their original families and without great prospects for being adopted into new ones. At the same time, the number of gays and lesbians becoming adoptive parents increases daily. This reality has raised hopes throughout our country among children’s advocates who see an underutilized supply of prospective mothers and fathers for so-called “waiting children.”

Across the United States, however, some conservative interest groups and politicians have worked in recent years to implement laws and policies that would prevent lesbians and gay men from providing homes for these boys and girls, and a few such efforts have been successful. The good news is that the research on this subject is almost unanimously one-sided — that is, it shows that non-heterosexuals make good parents, and their children do well (see the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute’s report on the subject, “Expanding Resources for Children,” and my two new books, Adoption by Lesbians and Gay Men: A New Dimension in Family Diversity and Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution Is Transforming Our Families). And, in the legal realm, the latest news is positive, too: the Arkansas Supreme Court recently struck a blow for best practices in child welfare by striking down a 2008 referendum — which allowed only married couples to foster or adopt a child from state care — as unconstitutional.

The bad news is that proponents of such measures are continuing to formulate legal and procedural strategies to accomplish their goal. Some of the activists engaged in the gays-shouldn’t-be-parents campaign acknowledge that they believe non-heterosexuals are problematic simply because of who they are. But most maintain, at least publicly, that they are motivated primarily by a desire to do what’s best for the kids who need families.

It is not homophobia, they insist, to establish rules that promote the benefits of parenting by both a mother and a father who are married to each other. They frequently add that preventing gay men and lesbians from adopting protects children from being negatively influenced, or even physically harmed, by the adults who are supposed to protect them.

Such arguments are, at best, ill-informed and, in many cases, plainly disingenuous. If politicians and others who make those assertions truly believe their own words, they should act quickly to remove the millions of supposedly at-risk girls and boys who are already in families in which one or both parents are gay. More urgently, they should swoop children out of single-parent homes, since those families deprive far more children of two married, cohabitating, heterosexual parents than any other cultural phenomenon in history.

Those are silly suggestions, of course, and no one is going to follow them (though there probably are some people who want to).

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, which I head, is not a gay/lesbian advocacy organization. We conduct independent, nonpartisan research and education projects on a broad range of subjects in order to improve the lives of everyone touched by adoption — especially children — through better laws, policies and practices.

Among the many reports we have published over the last several years are three about gay and lesbian adoption. They contain no shockers; in fact, they simply affirm what previous research has found: that children grow up healthier in loving families than in temporary care, including when the families are headed by qualified (training, vetting and oversight are all parts of the placement process) lesbians or gay men.

That is why a broad range of professional organizations — including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Family Physicians, the National Association of Social Workers and the Child Welfare League of America — has come to the same conclusion as we have at the Adoption Institute. These are not fringe groups that would put kids at risk, but just the opposite. The common threads among all of the organizations listed here is that we are in the mainstream and we all work, based on the best available information, for the welfare of children. And we all agree that allowing adoption by qualified gay men and lesbians furthers that objective.

Not incidentally, most adoption practitioners in our country have come to the same conclusion. Indeed, one study by the Adoption Institute showed that a growing majority of agencies nationwide accepts applications from gay and lesbian prospective parents, and at least 40 percent have placed children with them. Again, the social workers, therapists and other professionals at these agencies aren’t in business to hurt boys and girls but to improve their lives. And they’ve decided that that occurs when children stop shuttling between foster homes and are firmly ensconced in permanent ones.

The bottom line is simple: no state can effectively prevent lesbians or gay men from becoming mothers or fathers, because they can do so in other ways — such as surrogacy and insemination — or by moving somewhere that permits them to foster or adopt children. So all a state can accomplish if it imposes restrictions, as Arkansas tried to do and as Utah and Mississippi still do, is to shrink the pool of prospective parents and, as a result, increase the odds that children in its custody will ever receive the benefits of living in permanent, successful families.

Adam Pertman In The Media

October 30, 2011 – Pertman is quoted in a USA Today article that discusses a current storyline on the hit-show Glee and argues that it does not accurately depict the truths of adoption. To read the entire article, go to:

October 28, 2011 – The Huffington Post ran a blog posting from Pertman entitled “From Steve Jobs to Kids in Foster Care: Lessons During National Adoption Month.”  To read the entire article, go to:

October 25, 2011 – In the Denver Post, an article by Colleen O’Connor, “More and more, adoptions being made out of foster care,” quotes Pertman regarding the increase in adoptions from foster care and the need for post-adoption support services.  To read the article, go to:

 October 20, 2011 – An Associated Press report by Kelli Kennedy entitled “Adoptions Spiked among Gay Couples in Past Decade” references the Institute’s report “Expanding Resources for Children III: Research-Based Best Practices in Adoption by Gays and Lesbians”  and quotes Pertman.  To read the article in its entirety, go to: ABC News, the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times all ran stories about this important publication.

October 14, 2011 – Caryn Sullivan refers to Pertman and Adoption Nation in an article entitled “Adoption: Change is afoot” that appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. To read the article, go to:

October 10, 2011 – Pertman was interviewed on America’s Radio News Network; he discussed how millions of people are touched by adoption and how it is transforming our country. To hear the interview, go to:

October 6, 2011 – Pertman was featured on an ABC Nightline segment that focused on the life of Steve Jobs and addressed the question of nature vs. nurture; that is, did the fact that Jobs was adopted affect his success? To view the segment, go to:

September 27, 2011 –WomensRadio aired an interview with Pertman entitled, “The Adoption Revolution.” To listen to the interview, go to:

September 16, 2011 – “Mothering in the Middle,” a blog for new mid-life mothers, posted an excerpt from Pertman’s new book, Adoption Nation, entitled “Don’t Whisper, Don’t Lie – It’s Not a Secret Anymore.”  To read the excerpt, go to:

September 15, 2011 – A commentary by Executive Director Adam Pertman – entitled “With So Many Kids Who Need Families, Why Are We Rejecting Parents?” – appeared in the Huffington Post. To read the commentary, go to:

August 26, 2011 – Executive Director Adam Pertman was quoted in “The Ethicist” column in the New York. To read the column, go to:

August 19, 2011 – Pertman appeared on the Today show discussing birthfather rights as a preview for a Dateline segment on a contested adoption. To see the Dateline segment, go to:

August 16, 2011 – Pertman is featured in an ABC News article about a mother and daughter who were reunited after being victims of an adoption scam 34 years earlier. To read the article, go to:

August 15, 2011 – Pertman was interviewed by Armin Brott, a well-known parenting expert on his “Positive Parenting” show. To hear the interview, go to:

August 2, 2011 – In a Minneapolis StarTribune article, “New Challenges Unite Adult Adoptees,” Pertman discussed how adoption was once “a secretive, shame-filled, stigmatized process.” To read more, go to:

August 1, 2011 – Adoption Nation was recognized in an article published in Bay Windows entitled “10 books every LGBT parent should read.” To read the article, go to:

July 27, 2011 – In an article on ABC News, “Graying Adoptees Still Searching for Their Identities,” Pertman discussed the need for adult adoptees to have access to their original birth certificates. To read the article, go to:

July 6, 2011 – Pertman was interviewed by Patt Morrison NPR show in Southern California discussing the research that supports adult adoptee access. To listen to the interview, go to:

July, 2011 – Pertman and his newly released book, Adoption Nation, were featured in the July issue of Adoption Today magazine in an article entitled, “A Revolution in the Family.” To read the article, go to:

Radio Interview on KWMR

May 10:

I had the pleasure today of speaking with Raul Gallyot of KWMR on his “Pleasures in Taste” show.  Discussed were issues and attitudes surrounding adoption and foster care. To learn more and listen, go to:

If the President’s Birth Certificate is So Important, When do Adopted People Get to See Theirs?

April 28, 2011

I was interviewed today by CNN Senior Producer Jay Kemis for his blog.  We discussed President Obama’s birth certificate, along with other adoption issues. To read the interview on CNN’s site, go to:

Answering today’s six OFF-SET questions is Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the  Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a national nonprofit that is the pre-eminent research, policy and education organization in its field.

Pertman – a former Pulitzer-nominated journalist – is also Associate Editor of Adoption Quarterly, a research journal dealing with adoption and foster care. He is the author of the just-published book, “Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming Our Families – and America.”

The White House released President Barack Obama’s original long-form birth certificate Wednesday, seeking to put an end to persistent rumors that he was not born in the United States. What does the release of the certificate mean to those of you who work in the adoption community?

The most pointed message was for adopted people, who are the only group in America who are legally prohibited from accessing their own original birth certificates.

If that document is so hugely important – to quote my tweet on the subject – when do they get to see theirs? I hope one ray of sunshine that emanates from this bizarre birther controversy is that it shines a light on the access issue. Adoptees shouldn’t be punished simply because of how they entered their families.

There’s a U.S. Government web site on which the Surgeon General urges all Americans to create family health histories. What special challenges does this initiative pose to families who adopt?

Adopted people are the only group in America who cannot get their basic information (i.e., original birth certificates) as a matter of course. It’s not a level playing field for them – morally, legally or medically. The laws governing this are dinosaurs, relics of a time when adoption was shrouded in secrecy, stigma and shame. Let’s get rid of the dinosaurs and the special challenges – how to gain access to one’s own information – will get far easier. Then everyone will have the opportunity to get healthier, physically and psychologically.

If you could change any legislation dealing with adoption today, what would you change?

Well, if I’m dreaming, I’d come up with a bill that’s broad and sweeping, so that all the kids who need homes will get them, all the families that are struggling will get the support they need to succeed, all the teachers and doctors and mental-health professionals who are dealing with adoption without training finally receive it, and all the tens of millions of people who are affected by adoption daily will get better lives. Can we please file that legislation today? Continue reading

Equal Rights … Something We Should All Care About

January 12, 2011

For my second posting on this blog (is it too late to figure out a more elegant word to describe these things?), I’m offering a commentary that is being published today on The Huffington Post. It’s about a subject near and dear to my heart – adult adoptee access to original birth certificates – and the context is what I truly believe it should always be: giving all Americans equal rights. That’s something everyone, and not just people with direct connections to adoption, should care about. Here’s the link to the Huffington Post piece,, and the commentary is also right here:

At the beginning of the 1900s, grim predictions punctuated the debate over women’s suffrage. Everyone in the family unit would be damaged in innumerable ways if this outrage were allowed to happen, argued the critics, some of whom went so far as to predict the end of civilization itself.

Half a century later, another historic social change was in the offing, and the warnings of impending disaster were at least as dire. Indeed, some opponents of the movement to extend civil rights to people of color in our country were so sure that personal and social ruin were lurking around the corner that they fought with filibusters, nooses and guns to maintain the status quo.

Forecasting the future evidently is a difficult thing to do. Looking back is obviously easier, and it leads to two unambiguous conclusions. First, whether the effort is to give women the vote, provide African-Americans with equal rights, create access for people with disabilities — or level the playing field for any other discriminated-against segment of the population — there will be nay-sayers who insist that horrible things will occur if the sought-after change is allowed to transpire. Second, they will be wrong.

No, this is not a commentary about “don’t ask, don’t tell” or any other gay rights issue, though the identical observations would certainly apply. Rather, it’s about providing legal and moral equality for a segment of our population that is not generally perceived as deprived of any rights: the approximately 7 million Americans who were adopted into their families. And the right denied to most of them is so basic that it almost sounds like a joke: access to their own original birth certificates. Continue reading