In 2008 there were 129,000 children waiting to be adopted, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported. In 2007, the Urban Institute reported that two million gay or lesbian individuals said they had considered adoption. A hotly debated issue in the United States is whether or not those two million interested individuals should be able to adopt the children in need. There is currently no federal law that explicitly bans or allows gays and lesbians to adopt; the decision is left up to each state.
The debate over whether or not gay men and lesbians should be able to adopt children is essentially a fight over whether or not an individual's sexual orientation affects his ability to raise a child. Critics of gay and lesbian adoption argue that children raised by a gay or lesbian parent will be negatively affected by the parent's sexual orientation. However, several institutions, including the National Adoption Center and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, have publicly stated that sexual orientation does not affect an individual's parenting ability.
Effect of Gay and Lesbian Parents on Children
In 2006, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reported that children of gay or lesbian parents are not more likely to become homosexual and are not more likely to be sexually abused than those raised by heterosexual parents. Additionally, the report found that children with gay and lesbian parents show no difference in their gender identity or behavior.
Number of Gay and Lesbian Adoption
While there is no official count of the number of adoptions by gay and lesbian parents in the U.S., research has been done to try to offer an estimate. The 2007 Urban Institute report estimated that 65,500 adopted children had at least one gay or lesbian parent, accounting for 4 percent of the total number of adoptions. California had more gay and lesbian adoptions than any other state with 16,458. California was followed by New York with an estimated 7,000 adoptions. The other top three states were (in order) Massachusetts, Texas, and Washington.
State Laws on Gay and Lesbian Adoption
Florida is the only state that outright bans all homosexuals from adopting. Mississippi does not allow same-sex couples to adopt and Utah does not allow unmarried couples to adopt, but it is unclear whether or not gay and lesbian individuals are allowed to adopt. On the other hand, eleven states and the District of Columbia currently have laws that imply or directly protect the rights of gay and lesbian people to adopt children. In the remaining states, the decision whether or not to allow adoption by gays and lesbians falls on adoption agencies and social service workers.
Adoption Agencies' Attitudes Towards Gay and Lesbian Adoption
A 1999-2000 report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute found that 60 percent of adoption agencies accepted gay and lesbian applicants, either as couples or single parents. The same study found that 83 percent of all public agencies made at least one placement involving a gay or lesbian parent, while 40 percent of these agencies reported one placement. However, the study found that in 57 percent of the cases, the sexual orientation of the adopted parent was not looked into. In 2006, the Donaldson Institute concluded that the lack of direct policy towards gay and lesbian adoption disadvantaged potential gay and lesbian adopted parents, as well as the potential adopted children who instead remain in foster care.
Impact of a Gay and Lesbian Adoption Ban
The Urban Institute found that a national ban on gay or lesbian adoption would result in 9,000 to 14,000 children never being adopted. The national financial burden of caring for these children would range from $87 to $130 million and could cost states anywhere from $100,000 to $27 million. Additionally, these children would eventually age out of the foster care system. This means that at age 18 or 21, they are turned out of the system with no official family and no resources. The Donaldson Adoption Institute reports that 25,000 children already age out of foster care each year, and that these children are more likely to fall into poverty, be incarcerated or homeless, and have children at younger ages.