If a same-sex couple wants to adopt, how do you recommend they start?
If you’re interested in doing a traditional adoption whether it’s through the child welfare department in your state or through a private agency, the first thing you want to do is educate yourself about adoption in your state and make sure you understand how lesbian and gay couples and individuals are treated. Then you want to go about finding gay-friendly professionals—attorneys, adoption agencies, other adoption professionals—to help guide you through that process. In Massachusetts, if you’re interested in adopting through the child welfare system, the first step is to participate in a specific program provided by the child welfare system through which a home study is done and you take a parenting class. If you’re doing a private adoption in Massachusetts, you have to connect with an agency to do a home study and report. Many states require agency involvement throughout an adoption process while other states may allow private adoptions arranged through attorneys and/or adoption facilitators. To find out more about each state’s policies, review the Family Equality Council site.
While generally speaking, children born to married same-sex couples in recognition states will enjoy a presumption of parentage and will be recognized as the legal children of both parents, this presumption may not hold up in other states where the marriage is not recognized. So, even married couples should be doing co-parent adoptions so that, if you move to or travel through a jurisdiction that doesn’t recognize your marriage or the presumption of parentage, your parentage should be recognized.
I strongly recommend that you start any adoption process by finding an attorney who has experience with this kind of work. A good example of what not to do happened in New York last year when a couple filed a petition with an attorney who was very well meaning, but did not understand the ins and outs of the system. The Court denied the adoption because they were married, not understanding that the need for married couples to adopt (because of potential discriminatory treatment in a DOMA state).
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