Adoption is certainly not a foreign concept in the Black community and family. African Americans have found ways to take care of non-biological children for some time. Growing up I remember seeing family members informally “adopt” cousins, nieces and nephews, and grandchildren. When you visit adoption resource sites you see seemingly happy families with their new additions living the so-called “American dream.” Yet there is a vast disparity when it comes to diversity.
In 2000, it was reported that there were over 150,000 kids in need of forever homes. Research shows that gay and lesbian couples of color are more likely to raise children than their white counterparts. In fact, people of color are significantly more likely to become foster parents than white parents, making up a disproportionate percentage of foster parents.
But the grave reality is that adopting a child as a same-sex couple, especially a same-sex couple of color, comes with its fair share of legal and financial constraints.
The Human Rights Campaign reports that there are only 16 states in the U.S. that allow joint gay adoptions, which means that both parents can adopt the child from the beginning. There are also some states that allow second parent adoption, which is where a second parent can adopt without terminating the rights of the first parent.
In 2012, the Independent Adoption Center reported that 182 adoptions were placed into lesbian homes while 2,432 pregnant women contacted the center about placing their child up for adoption. On average a lesbian couple waits 16 months to have a child placed in their home while 90 percent wait as long as 31 months.
The good news is that although the average wait time is 16 months for same-sex families despite their ethnicity, the average wait time for a lesbian African American couple is 3 months. The average wait time is 8 months where only one parent is African American. Regardless of these optimistic numbers, it is crucial for lesbian couples to do their homework to circumvent issues that could hinder the adoption process.
Before a couple decides to dive into adoption, there are several steps they should consider in order to prepare:
- Get Informed. When you and your partner decide that you would like to take the route of adoption, the first step should be to equip yourself with all of the knowledge made available to you. Websites like the Independent Adoption Center, The Human Rights Campaign, and Adoption Open have a plethora of resources that will help to get you acquainted with the adoption process.
- Make a List. Don’t sacrifice all of your needs for immediate gratification. Just as the birth parent(s) are going through a selection process, so are you. If you want an open adoption where the birth parents are involved then keep searching until you get it. There may be some wants that you must sacrifice but not at the sake of your happiness. Make a list of your expectations, your goals, timelines, expenses, location changes, and note your negotiables. Use it as a guideline throughout the process. This list will be a living document that will be amended during the process, but it will help keep you on track.
- Seek and Secure a Lawyer. When it comes to ensuring that you and your family are protected, seeking legal counsel is the way to go. A lawyer that has experience in lesbian adoptions will be able to help guide you through the paper intensive process and will prove to be an informative resource in the land of adoption.
- Be Selective. If you decide to go through an adoption agency, select one that has worked with African American same-sex couples or is open to your situation. Not sure about their track record? Ask them.
- Save. Although this step is listed last, it is one of the most important. Those of us who were raised in a single-parent household and endured struggles know that we as women of color know how to make a steak dinner out of a honey sandwich. But when you are in a situation where you can plan then why not do so? There are all types of costs involved in adoptions that can range from medical bills to legal fees. Not to mention all the necessities a child has once they are in the home. Being a parent is both an emotional investment as it is a monetary one, so prepare, prepare, prepare.
The decision to start a family is one of the biggest ones you will make. You owe it to yourself and growing family to invest your time and effort into the process.
What have been your adoption experiences? What was the biggest challenge you faced and lesson you learned?
– Spoken Pandora
Spoken Pandora considers herself a gypsy that has traveled worlds through the literature she writes. Currently she resides in North Carolina with her daughter and partner. When she is not writing, she publicly speaks at LGBTQ events on sexual related topics. Her work can be found on her website TheEroticDen.com.