Tag Archives: gay adoption

Paul Ryan + Mother’s Day + Gay Marriage = Doing What’s Best for Children

To read this column on The Huffington Post, go to: http://huff.to/12ZCBgv.

It’s not yet time to declare a momentous victory, but it’s certainly a sign of progress that even staunch social conservatives like U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan now support adoption by lesbians and gay men. “I think if a person wants to love and raise a child,” the Wisconsin Republican recently told constituents, “they ought to be able to do that. Period.”

Even though Ryan said he still does not believe gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry, his change of heart about adoption has significant resonance for a couple of reasons. First, it comes in the context of huge progress for LGBT people on other fronts (even as we await the outcome of two historic marriage equality cases now before the U.S. Supreme Court); and, second, because Ryan delivered his comments just ahead of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Like all other parents during those national celebrations, gay moms and dads in every state will receive cards and flowers and ties and hugs and other expressions of love from their sons and daughters — tens of thousands of whom were adopted from the U.S. child welfare system, many of them at older ages, in sibling groups or with physical, psychological or developmental special needs.

The point is that the professionals whose job is to ensure the safety and well-being of children in foster care have long known from experience what the research unequivocally affirms: that gay parents, like their straight peers who also are vetted and trained before being permitted to adopt, provide enormous benefits to girls and boys who need families. That is precisely why a wide array of mainstream organizations, from the Donaldson Adoption Institute to the American Academy of Pediatrics, to the National Association of Social Workers and numerous others, have uniformly come out in support of adoption by lesbians and gay men.

There are benefits that the children in these families do not receive, however, and they are the ones that derive from marriage. Separate from the question of whether single and unmarried parents can also raise children well — which both experience and research clearly demonstrate they can — it’s simply true that society values marriage and attaches a diverse range of advantages to children within it, such as insurance coverage, legal protections, social standing, inheritance and so forth. Indeed, I believe it can be fairly argued that children are the biggest beneficiaries of marriage.
So, keeping that reality firmly in mind for a moment, I’d like to suggest that in addition to the adult-focused issue that is central to the gay marriage debate — whether it’s fair to give different people different rights depending on their sexual orientation — we also should address another vital question, one on which most people of every political and religious stripe presumably would agree: Shouldn’t our nation’s laws, policies and practices serve “the best interests of the child?”

Viewed through that prism, the picture of what needs to happen next seems crystal clear to me: The 39 states that have not approved marriage equality should do so expeditiously, and the Supreme Court should decide the marriage equality cases before it in favor of allowing gay men and women to legally wed and to have those unions recognized by the federal government.

After all, if it is in the best interests of children to have the opportunity to live in families in which they can receive the most protections and the greatest advantages, “they ought to be able to do that. Period.”

New Realities in the Extended Family: Who is the Woman Celebrating Thanksgiving with Your Next-Door Neighbors?

March 27, 2012

To read this column on The Huffington Post, go to:  http://huff.to/GV7pqq

Adoption has been around, in one form or another, for a very long time; to get a sense of how long, please see the Bible. As a result of its stigmatized, secretive history during much of the 20th Century, however (so stigmatized and secretive, in fact, that parents often didn’t tell their own children that they were adopted), there is a lack of understanding to this day about the parties to adoption and the nature of their relationships. And the repercussions of this lingering lack of knowledge are considerable – from inaccurate, corrosive stereotypes about the women who place their children for adoption; to uninformed, undermining attitudes about adoptive families; to obsolete laws and policies that treat adopted individuals as second-class citizens; to genuine surprise among most people when they learn about adoption’s current realities.

I hear that surprise regularly in the voices of the teachers, doctors, mental health professionals, journalists and others with whom I routinely interact as head of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a national research and policy organization. “Are you sure birthmothers don’t want to just forget about the baby they put up for adoption and move on?” Yes, very sure. “I’m sorry that you, as an adoptive parent, couldn’t have any real children.” You should see my kids sometime; they look real. And: “It can’t be true that most states’ laws impede adult adoptees from getting their own medical information, can it?” Shocking maybe, but true as true can be.

All of which brings me to a just-published report from the Adoption Institute, the core of which is a new survey of adoption agencies nationwide and which is entitled “Openness in Adoption: From Secrecy and Stigma to Knowledge and Connections.” It shows just how far we have progressed – and how profoundly families have changed – since the stigmatized, shame-filled, clandestine days when it was considered good practice to keep nearly all adoptions of infants in this country “closed,” meaning the children’s new families and their families of origin knew virtually nothing about each other and never had communication of any kind.

Leaping forward to today’s very-different world, here are some highlights of the Institute’s report:

  • Only 5% of agency infant adoptions start out as “closed” and most (55%) are “open,” which means the birth and adoptive families know each other and usually plan ongoing contact. (The remaining 40% are in the middle, with information exchanged through intermediaries.)
  • Equally telling is the finding that 95% of agencies now offer open adoptions; remember, not very long ago in our history, that number was zero.
  • In the vast majority of cases, the expectant mother considering adoption for her baby meets the prospective adoptive parents and chooses her child’s new family.
  • Adoptive parents, like most participants in open adoptions, report positive experiences;  more openness is also associated with greater satisfaction with the adoption process.
  • Women who have placed their infants for adoption – and then have continuing contact with their children – report less grief, regret and worry, as well as more peace of mind.
  • The primary beneficiaries of openness are the adopted persons, as children and later in life, because of access to birth relatives, as well as to their own family and medical histories.

So, what does it all mean?

At the ground level, for the adults and children directly involved, it means we’re moving into an era in which the definition of “extended family” is being expanded to something along the lines of an in-law model – except it’s the children, rather than the spouses, who bring their relatives into the new family. It also means the practitioners who place babies for adoption need to better understand the sometimes-challenging road ahead so they can impart their knowledge to the involved parties, who themselves need to learn how best to navigate their complex new relationships. (The Adoption Institute is creating a curriculum for professionals and parents to help them do just that.)

Not all adoptions are “open,” of course, and most contemporary adoptions are not of infants; the majority are of older children from foster care in the U.S. and some involve boys and girls from orphanages abroad. One size does not fit all; no single type of family formation – by adoption or biology or step-parenting or guardianship or fostering – is right for everybody; and, while adoption has improved markedly in many ways in the last several decades, we’ve still got lots of work to do.

Even so, the knowledge we now have tells us that modern infant adoption increasingly involves informed consent, mutual respect and the genuine best interests of children to a degree that simply hadn’t existed before. And it tells us – in the really big picture – that adoption as a social institution continues to do what it has done for a very long time: open our minds and alter our collective views about what constitutes a family, and that’s very good news for the growing gamut of family constellations in our country today.

The woman celebrating Thanksgiving with your next-door neighbors is the mother who brought her son to this earth – and then placed him with his new parents. Don’t be surprised, be delighted.

If Kids Need Families, Why Do We Reject Parents?

September 15, 2011

To read this column on The Huffington Post, go to: http://tinyurl.com/pertmanhuff

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: http://usat.ly/sEvDTE.

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: http://huff.to/v7WTPf.

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: http://bit.ly/tt35C2.

 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: http://apne.ws/rZhHQm. 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: http://bit.ly/rsmZII.

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: http://bit.ly/w2msWw.

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: http://abcn.ws/rXCDlg.

September 27, 2011 –WomensRadio aired an interview with Pertman entitled, “The Adoption Revolution.” To listen to the interview, go to: http://bit.ly/per0Oy.

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: http://bit.ly/nzFgxv.

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: http://huff.to/p5Jjjn.

August 26, 2011 – Executive Director Adam Pertman was quoted in “The Ethicist” column in the New York. To read the column, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/magazine/the-ethicist-secret-history.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=pertman&st=cse

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: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032600/#44209050.

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: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/seymour-fenichel-baby-mother-reunited-34-years-adoption/story?id=14314781.

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: http://www.mrdad.com/radio/2011/08/15/the-adoption-revolution-finding-your-perfect-family-size/.

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: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/126529928.html.

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: http://tinyurl.com/TenBooks.

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: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/MindMoodNews/adult-adoptees-fight-access-original-birth-certificates/story?id=11230246.

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: http://bit.ly/n1OHX3.

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: http://tinyurl.com/ATPertman.

Random Musings: Innovation, Research and Reviews

August 3, 2011

Summer is a time for kicking back, soaking up some sun, and savoring every minute without the bustle of the normal stresses of workaday life. Yes, I’m fanaticizing – or at least kidding. In fact, this has been an unusually busy summer for me, but I’m truly not complaining, because I know how lucky I am to get to do what I do.

In July, for instance, I spoke at a terrific conference on Cape Cod sponsored by Joyce Maguire Pavao and her Center for Family Connections; visited a beautiful site in Connecticut where a camp for adopted kids will be held next year, based on best practice standards that the Adoption Institute is developing; attended a “launch party” for my new book Adoption Nation at an art gallery in Washington, D.C., hosted by Janice Goldwater and Adoptions Together; and – here’s the capper – ended the month by participating (with a lot of extraordinary people, including a Nobel laureate) in an invitation-only Innovation Forum in New York, organized by the Rockefeller Foundation, to discuss world problems.

August includes presentations at the annual conference of the North American Council on Adoptable Children, where I’ll talk about how research can improve laws, policies and practices; at a national education conference in Washington, D.C., where I’ll focus on key issues in the schools; and at a professional training in California, where I’ll discuss some of the Adoption Institute’s major initiatives (such as post-adoption services, youth aging out of foster care, positive identity formation, etc.).

And, of course, I’ve been promoting the work of the Institute – as well as my book – through television, radio, the internet and print publications. Please take a look at the front page of the Institute website or the media section of my blog to read, listen to and watch some of the interviews. And here’s one last bit of suggested reading: Adoption Nation. Order a copy, tell your friends about it, and recommend it to complete strangers!.

To recap, I get to run around all over the place, interact with smart and dedicated people, and do a lot of things I care deeply about. Yes, I will even take some time off for an annual family vacation on the Jersey shore. Am I a lucky guy, or what?