Adopting a child can be a long and complicated process. Those in the LGBTQ+ community may have additional considerations to keep in mind. While LGBTQ+ people can adopt in all 50 states in the U.S., individual states have differing protections against adoption and foster care discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. More and more adoption agencies are open to working with people of all family structures, but some continue to refuse service to families based on the grounds of religious or other beliefs. For advice on navigating the process, we talked with our partner PairTree, a self-matching platform for birth parents and adoptive parents. PairTree prospective parents Emily P. and Emily M. also talked about their personal experience pursuing adoption and shared advice on coping with the emotional side of the journey.
What should LGBTQ+ prospective parents know before starting on an adoption journey?
Know your state laws and speak with a licensed adoption attorney in your state. For example, are you in a state that requires you to use an adoption agency? If so, you can still use a service like PairTree to connect with a birth parent or family to significantly reduce the overall adoption fees; however, you'll want to pick an adoption agency that provides their services regardless of family structure or sexual orientation to ensure that your family has equal representation. We're seeing some positive changes in the adoption landscape, which has some documented history of discriminatory practices. Today, more adoption professionals work with all families.
What advice do you have for managing the legal side of adoption as an LGBTQ+ couple or individual?
LGBTQ+ families can adopt in all 50 states; however some states, like Tennessee, allow adoption agencies to refuse service to LGBTQ+ families based on religious beliefs. So, you'll want to do your research to find an adoption professional (agency or attorney) that has historically been open to all families.
Note: Carrot also helps members find legal resources related to their family-forming journey.
Adoption can take a long time. What advice do you have for prospective parents when it comes to taking care of yourself during the process?
Some parts of the adoption process are out of your control, and that can be stressful. Talking with friends, writing in a journal, or speaking with a therapist can all help. We know that Carrot members have access to unlimited emotional support chats related to their family-forming journey, too. PairTree has a diary feature, and we have additional self-care tips on our website.
What advice do you have for LGBTQ+ prospective parents just starting their adoption journey?
At PairTree, we're seeing growing interest in LGBTQ+ families from birth parents and families — in fact, 20% of our matches have been with LGBTQ+ families. Our advice — regardless of family structure — is you need to be you. Don't try to be a family that you “think” might be attractive to a birth parent or family. The right birth parent for you will love your family for who you are.
What advice do you have for someone looking to adopt as a single person?
It is legal in all 50 states for a single person to adopt a child, and around 25% of adoptive parents are single. However, there are agencies that will deny single people solely based on their family structure. From our perspective, we are seeing single-person families match on PairTree. Any adoption professional listed on PairTree has certified that they are a licensed adoption attorney or licensed adoption agency and will work with all families that are home-study approved. Whether or not you're using PairTree, look for an adoption agency that will work with all prospective parents, regardless of family structure. Carrot Experts in adoption can also help you navigate the options available for your specific situation.
Advice from a couple on an adoption journey
When going through an adoption journey, it can be helpful to hear from others who have been there before. San Francisco-based prospective parents Emily P. and her wife, Emily M., are PairTree members ultimately hoping to adopt two kids. Below, Emily P. shared advice for others going through the adoption journey.
What surprised you most about the adoption process?
It's really freaking hard. I was always told by others that it's such a challenging process, but I don't think I fully understood how emotional it is. It's so hard to sit in the uncertainty of it all and really just wait for your life to change in a really big way. You don't know if it'll happen now or years from now.
What was the most confusing aspect of the adoption process?
There are so many different routes that you can take with adoption, and I think it's confusing to know where to start. We luckily had some friends who had gone through the adoption process and were able to give us some guidance, but otherwise, there are so many varying state laws, agencies, lawyers, home studies, and paperwork to navigate that it can feel pretty overwhelming.
What advice do you have for someone just starting the adoption process?
I would recommend trying to connect with others who have been through the process. Everyone's path is unique and their own, but I think it helps to connect with others who have been there who are also going through it. Adoption can also be really isolating, so I think it's important to have a community of people supporting you. I'd also make sure you leave space for things that aren't adoption related. It's easy to become consumed with the adoption process — which makes sense, it's a big deal — but don't forget all the parts of your life that you loved before you started the process. Those areas of your life are still there for you. Adoption can take a long time.
How can adoptive parents connect with others going through an adoption journey?
It's been hard to connect with other adoption parents because we are going through this during the pandemic, but I've found that Facebook has a lot of really wonderful support groups and folks to connect with. It's been a great resource because you meet people who are at all stages of the process, both just beginning and those who have finalized their adoptions. I've learned a lot from people in these groups, and it's also just been really nice to meet people who "get it."
What advice do you have for taking care of yourself during the process?
Find a therapist! I recognize I'm biased because I am a therapist, but it's so important to make sure you have a space that is just yours where you can process all the challenging and also wonderful parts of adoption. And I'd also recommend trying not to put your life on hold while you are trying to adopt. If you've been wanting to go on a trip, then go on that trip! Adoption and your life will be there when you get back.