Because all children deserve ‘Forever Families’: On the Importance of Same-Sex Adoption

I have a ‘forever family’. It consists of a mom, and dad, and me – their adopted daughter. I grew up in a permanent ‘forever home’ with a loving, supportive family in much the same way other children do with their biological parents.

And with all this love and support I was able to grow into a healthy child who played basketball, roller-bladed, and begged to quit ballet shortly after my very first lesson (you just can’t do a lay-up in a tutu). With the backing of a dedicated support system I was granted every opportunity to flourish into what I consider to be a (relatively) successful adult.

My parents and I don’t share blood, medical histories, or DNA but instead share a bond much deeper than any non-adopted family could possibly begin to understand.  And for that, the privilege that was granted, I’m incredibly lucky, as are many of the 1.5 million Americans who have been adopted into what I hope are similarly loving ‘forever homes’.

But often times I sit back and think about what my life would have been like if my ‘forever family’ hadn’t found me. Who would I have become? Would I have had the chance to go to university? Would I have had the security of knowing that, just a phone call away, I would have a family member who would be willing to help me fight any battle?  Would I even get a birthday card? Or would I have been just another child caught without a sense of permanency, caught within a flawed social system?

Thankfully I wasn’t. And while I’m grateful to all those who had a part in granting me my present-day reality it is tragically not the norm.

Worldwide, adoption is still very rare; the United Nations estimates that 260,000 adoptions occur each year, which equates to fewer than 12 adoptions out of every 100,000 children under the age of 18.What this results in is 13 million double orphans (children who have lost both parents) in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean who lack ‘forever families’.

13 million.

Let me put this into perspective. In Africa alone, it is estimated that the current rate of domestic adoption would need to be multiplied 2000 times in order to guarantee the approximate 8 million African orphans are adopted into permanent homes. Globally, the number of adoptions of AIDS-related orphans would need to be increased by a factor of 60.

Another 119 million children are single orphans (children who have lost one parent) and may also require adoption into permanent homes.

Within the United States, more than 250,000 children are forced into the foster system each and every year. Approximately half of these children will return to family members, leaving approximately 105,000 children stuck in limbo: with luck finding their ‘forever families’, or, like the nearly 20,000 children in the US, aging out of the foster system, without one. In Canada the situation is not much better: over 78,000 children are still waiting for permanent homes.

This isn’t the first time I’ve spoken about my adoption, the need for increased awareness about adoption, or the importance of viewing adoption as pro-choice. But over the past two months we have been witness to a new intensification of the adoption debate. Or at least, in my opinion it has. It’s time to talk about it.

We have a new Pope. For us non-Catholics this doesn’t exactly change anything ; I doubt any of us, particularly in the feminist world, anticipated a newfound acceptance of our ‘liberal values’ – a modernization of old conservative, misogynist worldviews. But what Pope Francis brings is a particular dislike for same-sex marriage, which he declared a “destructive attack on God’s plan” although coming from a country which has openly accepted same-sex marriage since 2010 (a year, in fact, before New York did). But perhaps even more appalling, Pope Francis has a particular hatred for same-sex adoption.

Not that the Vatican has even really been a fan of same-sex adoption either. In fact, just weeks before the election of Pope Francis, the Vatican once again voiced its distaste for same-sex adoption, believing that children should grow up in “the ordinary way…with a father and mother”.

According to Pope Francis, same-sex adoption is not wrong simply because it’s not ‘ordinary’; to him, the adoption of children by same-sex couples is a “form of discrimination against children”.

But what’s obvious to me is the Pope’s misunderstanding of the term discrimination. Perhaps if he had a more formal understanding what it means to be discriminated against he would view this situation a little different, a little less harshly…or simply with a little more compassion.

So let me provide a definition:

Discrimination, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex”

So, the academic in me could say that we could perhaps validate the Pope’s ‘discriminatory’ view of same-sex adopted children if there was evidence to suggest that children adopted by same-sex couples were at risk. Lacking. Limited. Affected negatively in any way by the sexual orientation of their parents.

But here’s the problem: there is none. Empirical evidence supporting the Pope’s ‘discriminatory’ standpoint just doesn’t exist. Thirty years of extensive research finds nothing to suggest that children of same-sex parents are any less likely to thrive. Excel. Be loved in the exact say same that I did with heterosexual parents.

So, who is really being ‘discriminated’ by discouraging adoptions by same-sex couples? The LGBT couples who wish to offer ‘forever homes’ to deserving children, and the deserving children wanting to find ‘forever families’.

Because what those against same-sex adoption and, by virtue same-sex marriage, are essentially suggesting is that children like me – children who have, by no fault of their own, and for reasons mostly unknown to them, been placed for adoption are not deserving of a loving family.

It is better, says those who believe in the abomination of same-sex adoption, that millions of children around the world grow up without ‘forever families’ than to live with a loving couple, who by no fault of their own, just happen to be of the same sex.

People who don’t support same-sex marriage, or the adoption of children by same-sex couples, are in essence denying both deserving children and deserving couples the right to a ‘forever family’. I can find nothing Christian about that, nothing moral about it, and nothing just. This, in my albeit very biased opinion, is the very essence of discrimination.

In the words of Ezra Klein, “adoption by gay couples is one of the best arguments for gay marriage”. Well said, because as far as I’m concerned I would much rather grow up with a ‘forever family’ that happens to have two moms, or two dads, than to live without one.

Cross-posted with permission on Fem2pt0

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2 thoughts on “Because all children deserve ‘Forever Families’: On the Importance of Same-Sex Adoption

  1. astrojeeta says:

    In much of the world, adoption is still very highly stigmatized, perhaps because many couples who choose to adopt are infertile. This may not be completely true in the context of the US especially if the parents cannot have biological children or already have other biological children. But when it comes to couples/people who choose not to have biological children rather adopt children, it is still viewed as quite unnatural and unfeminine in the context of women because women are supposed to have innate desire to give birth. On top of that, like you pointed out, the discussion on adoption is often related to what constitutes a normal household (the fact that same-sex couples or single parents are not deemed appropriate).

    I did a little bit of research on adoption because I plan to adopt a child or children (and perhaps not have my own children) sometimes later in my life (I’m only 25). On doing so, I found out how unfavorable some of the laws regarding adoption are for single parents, or for parents who have potential to have biological children. In my country, Nepal, couples have to show a proof of infertility for at least 4 yrs after their marriage in order to be able to adopt, a single man cannot adopt, whereas a single woman can adopt only if she is older than 35 yrs old, and also same-sex couples cannot adopt. Along with this (I’m not too certain about how this was worded), you can only adopt one child of a particular sex. Though Nepal’s rules on adoption seems to stand out quite a lot, the adoption rules in other countries didn’t seem to be all that well thought out either. I do understand that there needs to be some rules and perhaps heavy background check in order to ensure that these children are being handed to responsible parents, but some/most of these rules seem to be doing nothing for the welfare of the children.

    Sorry for the rather long comment. Liked your post!

  2. kathleenpye says:

    Firstly of all, good for you and thank you for wanting to adopt. And more importantly, thank you for raising my awareness about the adoption process in Nepal. I had no idea how compled (and discriminatory) it was! I totally agree with you – having such strict rules regarding who can and can’t adopt (besides the obvious for safety) is harming not only the families who want to provide love and support but more specifically the child deserving of a loving home. Adoption is still seen has this ‘second best option’ (in fact, the National Organization of Marriage president recently referred to adoption that way) which is harmful and stigmatizing. Adoption is just another type of parenting, no different than birth, stepparenting, etc. Who cares how you create your ‘forever family’, the most important is that all chidren have ‘forever homes’

    Thank you for your long comment (which inspired my long comment). So appreciated it – and so insightful 🙂

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