Tag Archives: original birth certificates

Children Are the Winnners When We Replace Stigma With Best Practices for Gay and Lesbian Parents

November 21, 2011

News flash: Today, in every state in America, gay fathers and lesbian mothers are raising children. For a range of reasons, not everyone in our country likes or wants to accept this reality, but it is a reality nevertheless. And it is also true that adoption – primarily of “waiting” children and youth from foster care – is one of the reasons for this growing phenomenon. As National Adoption Awareness Month (also known to many as “November”) comes to a close, I’m happy to report that research and experience show that non-heterosexual parents bring up their children as thoughtfully, competently and with as positive results as their straight counterparts.

Nevertheless, societal stigmas relating to adoption by lesbians and gay men remain, as do institutional barriers. These impediments do not further the best interests of children; indeed, they prevent or delay permanency for many, undermining their long-term psychosocial and academic adjustment. With over 100,000 girls and boys lingering in foster care, despite being legally free for adoption, we need to make every effort to find timely, permanent placements for them as well as for every other child, in the U.S. and abroad, who would benefit from adoption.

In keeping with its strategic priority to conduct work that improves children’s prospects of living in safe and successful families – and just in time for Adoption Month! – the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute has published “Expanding Resources for Children III: Research-Based Best Practices in Adoption by Gays and Lesbians.” To read the report, which is the culmination of four years of research, go to: http://bit.ly/to4CYp. This important work reviews what is known about adoption by non-heterosexual parents and presents new empirical data about their perceptions, experiences and needs. Based on this knowledge, the Institute provides recommendations for improving adoption practice and for strengthening pre-adoption and post-adoption services for their families.

For readers’ background, here are key findings from previous Adoption Institute research:

  • Children growing up in lesbian- and gay-headed households show similar patterns of adjustment as those raised by heterosexuals.
  • Non-heterosexuals adopt children at significant rates; over 65,000 have done so, and 14,000 kids from foster care live in homes headed by gay/lesbian individuals or couples.
  • Most children adopted from foster care are adopted by their foster parents, so banning or hindering lesbians and gay adults from fostering or adopting reduces the number of permanent and nurturing homes for children in need.
  • At least 60% of U.S. adoption agencies accept non-heterosexual parental applicants, and almost 40% have knowingly placed children with them – meaning almost any qualified lesbian, gay man, or same-sex couple can find professionals to work with them.

And here are some major findings from the new report by the Institute:

  • Over 50% of lesbian and gay parents adopted children from the child welfare system, and 60% adopted transracially – so non-heterosexual individuals and couples are important resources for children who linger in foster care.
  • Over 80% of these parents voluntarily shared information about their sexual orientation with adoption workers, and most workers responded in a positive and accepting manner.
  • About one-third of the adoptions by lesbians and gay men in our survey were “open,” and the birth families’ initial reactions upon learning of their sexual orientation were strongly positive (73%). Interestingly, gay male couples more often reported having been chosen because of their sexual orientation than did lesbians, explaining that the birthmothers expressed a desire to remain the child’s “only mother.”
  • Two-thirds of lesbians and gays identified multiple areas of unmet training needs, including those related to general parenting, children’s developmental issues, helping children cope with adoption and parental sexual orientation, and race and culture issues.

In addition, one of the Institute’s most significant recommendations is support and advocacy for same-sex marriage, because the research shows that children benefit financially, socially and in many other ways from having two married parents.

Until recently, few guidelines existed in the area of adoption practice relating to gay and lesbian parenting. In addition, little research had been conducted on adoption by LGBT families or on their experiences and needs in raising their children. That is why the Adoption Institute is providing best-practice guidelines grounded in sound theory, experienced casework and valid empirical data. To read them, please go to the “Expanding Resources for Children III” report at http://bit.ly/to4CYp. To read the Huffington Post commentary I wrote to kick off National Adoption Month, go to: http://huff.to/vyDbPc. To read my last HuffPost commentary on gay/lesbian adoption, go to: http://huff.to/oxDzlu

The new research and policy analysis by the Adoption Institute, as well as the work of other organizations and individuals – notably including the Human Rights Campaign, the British Association for Adoption and Fostering and Professor Gary Mallon – represent important steps in developing better ways of working with families in which the parents happen to be gay or lesbian. As better practices are identified, validated, disseminated and utilized by well-trained professionals, during every National Adoption Awareness Month and in every other month for years and decades to come, the true beneficiaries will be the many thousands of boys and girls whose lives will be improved.

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?

When Independence is a Problem

July 26, 2011

Just a few weeks ago, on the 4th of July, America again celebrated its independence. The very word “independence” evokes positive images and sentiments worthy of celebration: the freedom to be who one chooses, the ability to carve one’s own path, the right to determine one’s own destiny. For one group in our country, however, independence seldom affords any of those opportunities: the nearly 28,000 youth who “age out” of foster care each year.

These young men and women are legally emancipated to make it on their own, but usually without families or resources to help them, so they are left to travel a road to nowhere. In disproportionate numbers, they wind up pregnant, on the street, out of school, or in jail.

State governments typically take custody of these boys and girls as children because they were being abused or neglected, with the implicit promise that they will be given safer, better lives. But too many wind up being shuttled from home to home, from school to school. Too many are never returned to their original families or moved into new ones, are never connected with adults who stick with them and guide them, and are never provided with the developmental, emotional and social benefits that are best achieved through permanency. And then, when they reach the age of 18 or 21, they are granted their independence.

Simply put, as a society, we have failed them.

A new report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, entitled “Never Too Old,” points out that while adoptions of younger children from foster care have been rising significantly, the success rate for older ones remains anemic. The report examines the array of state and federal initiatives that focus on these youth – and finds many to be  effective or promising – but concludes that far more needs to be done; suggests that these young people should become a national priority; and recommends steps to achieve greater progress for them.

In keeping with the Institute’s focus on permanency for all children, “Never Too Old” looks not just at adoption, but at reunification, subsidized guardianship, long-term foster care, and other effective approaches that can achieve lasting, supportive connections. The Institute’s recommendations, based on over a year of research and analysis, include:

  • Increase recruitment, support and utilization of relatives as permanency resources for youth, both through adoption and subsidized guardianships
  • Work for true permanency for every youth, meaning a family or enduring adult connection; emancipation, “independent living” and the like should be last resorts – not goals.
  • Assess controversial steps such as restoring the rights of biological parents whose children were removed from their homes, and conduct more research into what works and doesn’t.

How many of us believe our sons and daughters – even when they have had stable upbringings in affluent families, have received solid educations and have blossomed into thoughtful, mature young people – are ready to make it alone in the world without guidance, resources or support from family members or other adults?

A core conclusion in the Adoption Institute report, based on research and experience, is that permanent, emotionally sustaining and committed relationships are imperative for all youth to reach self-sufficiency and to thrive in early adulthood. Yet the proportion of those in foster care who are being granted their “independence,” without any such help, has grown from about 7 percent in FY 1998 to 11 percent in FY 2010.

For our country, the social and economic consequences of this national embarrassment are significant. For the young people who urgently need our help, the toll is incalculable.

The Critical Role of the Media in Shaping Attitudes

June 30, 2011

A lot of people in my world – that’s the one in which words like “adoption,” “foster care,” “orphan,” “search and reunion,” and “birth/first parents” are used almost every day – wonder why I talk to journalists so much when so many of them seem to understand so little about the issues we’re most concerned about.

Here’s why I do it: The media play a critical role in every society in huge ways, most pointedly by helping to shape popular attitudes and understandings about a wide, diverse array of topics. That’s true about presidential politics, international affairs, restaurant reviews and, of course, about the issues that profoundly affect the people in my world. Alas, generations of secrecy and stigma relating to those issues (and to the people they affect) have undermined public understanding of them by everyone from policy-makers to members of our own communities to … wait for it … the media.

So the short answer is that I talk to journalists so much because I know from having been one myself for 25 years that, believe it or not – and I know many readers of this blog won’t believe it – most of them really want to get it right and, once educated on a subject, will try hard to do so. The problem is that they, like the rest of the society in which they live and work, are the products of all the secrecy and stigma and shame that pervaded the world of adoption for generations.

Journalists cannot print or air anything unless someone says it to them, so one of my missions – as Executive Director of the Adoption Institute and author of the new edition of Adoption Nation – is to use all those words I mentioned in the first paragraph above, and many others that have become routine parts of my vocabulary, to explain our realities; unravel our mysteries; dispel our myths; shatter our stereotypes; and, as best as I can, promote better attitudes and understandings in the media, through the media and, eventually, to the broad range of readers, viewers and listeners whom they reach.

All of this is a long way of telling you that I’ve had a very busy few weeks talking to reporters, producers and TV/radio hosts. Many of the interviews grew out of promotion for my book, and I make no secret of the fact that I want at least one zillion people to buy it, read it and learn from it. But I promise you that, first and foremost, I enter every interview with my primary role being that of educator, and my goal being to improve life for everyone on the planet we inhabit.

Whew! Now here’s a list of most of the media in which I’ve appeared in the last few weeks:

  • June 10 – F OX News online, discussing the decline in international adoptions and the growth of adoptions from foster care: http://tinyurl.com/FoxNewsPertman.
  • June 7 – ABC affiliate News 10’s Sacramento & Co., talking about Father’s Day, as well as about respecting children’s heritage:  http://tinyurl.com/ABCSacramento.