Same sex couples + adoption
My same sex partner and I are currently being assessed for Intercountry adoption in Ireland. Although both of us are being assessed only one of us can be the legal parent under Irish law. We have just discovered (four years later) :hissy: that although I will be the legal parent if we are approved our documentation will reflect our relationship.
We are trying to decide if it is worth proceeding - has anyone adopted internationally being open about their orientation? Is there anywhere that would place a child with us?
Some of my friends have faced this issue and according to them, most countries would not allow you to adopt internationally because of homophobia. I was under the impression from my friends that the easiest thing for some people to do is to lie (I say for "some people" because I have friends who refuse to do this). My understanding was you would have to deny your relationship and even your sexual orientation and adopt as a single. I hope I am wrong - perhaps others can post and help you with this one. It would also be helpful if you said what country you live in - my friends are US citizens and generally find it easiest to adopt domestically. If you are Canadian, I believe a lot of Canadians adopt from the US but I don't know how the same sex couple thing is handled.

Good luck!
'Most countries'
Thanks for that Max'smom - when you say 'most' countries - are there any who would place a child with a same sex couple? or is it 100% no?

I was under the impression that a same sex couple from Canada or Great Britain could adopt internationally from the US.

Otherwise, I believe that if you are US citizens, your choice is a) adopt domestically or b) adopt internationally as a single and hide your sexual orientation from one of the countries that would currently allow a single woman to adopt - Haiti, Russia and perhaps Bulgaria, e.g., my friend's friends adopted from Russia with no problems, except for the fact that they completely and totally hid their relationship. One formally adopted and the other came along as a friend. There were also single women adopting from Guatemala, but that country is basically closed to US adoptions.

I am not an authority - perhaps you should get in touch with an adoption agency that is more open to working with same sex couples than yours seems to be. Agencies need to be on your side totally. My lesbian friend who adopted from China as a single person a number of years ago had to switch agencies, because her first agency didn't seem to be doing any thing for her; and yet my other lesbian friends adopted from her original agency with no problems - the difference was that China had started to become more closed I think and perhaps was starting to look for reasons not to work with lesbians.

Good luck!
I have friends who are a same-sex couple, also adopting, and they could only do U.S. openly. They chose to go international, and were told one would have to adopt as a single woman to succeed. I don't know of any country in Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America or Africa which would allow a same-sex couple to adopt openly. Nuala, I hope you can achieve your dream of a family!
what about Rwanda? I would look into it as it seems their restrictions are few. Good luck and I am sorry that in 2008 we still are dealing with discrimination like this.
No country in the world, including the U.S., will let two cohabiting singles, whether gay or straight, adopt as a couple. It's not a matter of homophobia; heterosexual couples who choose not to marry are affected as much as same sex couples. The laws of most nations give legally married couples certain rights and certain obligations, which are not given to couples who are not legally married. These laws affect things like financial responsibilities, responsibilities in the case of divorce, etc.

That being said, the U.S. has a few states that have what are called "second parent adoption" laws. These laws, well known in the gay community but less well known in the straight community, are used AFTER one person in a cohabiting couple (gay or straight) gives birth to or adopts a child. They allow the other person in the couple to go to court and petition to have the same rights as the person who bore or adopted the child.

As a result, even if an American gay or lesbian adopts as a single, he/she may be able to ensure that his/her partner has equal rights, if he/she lives in a state that has a second parent adoption law. Look for second parent adoption laws in states that have been fairly liberal on gay issues, like the District of Columbia. But, unfortunately, do not expect them to be widespread.

A few foreign countries do not accept singles of any orientation; like Korea and China, they are open only to legally married couples. Unfortunately, as a few U.S. states begin to allow gay marriage, these countries will begin to say "legally married HETEROSEXUAL couples" since they tend to have limited experience with gays and lesbians as parents, and many false notions as a result.

Quite a few foreign countries accept single women. Until recently, many countries did not realize that many lesbians wanted to adopt, and so they did not have any overt prohibitions on the subject. Many lesbians, both truly single and in partnerships, adopted as a result. Unfortunately, more and more countries are realizing that lesbians and gays are adopting, and are cracking down, because of their unfamiliarity with the way gays and lesbians live in the Western world.

Unpartnered lesbians often can still adopt, especially if they use a gay-friendly homestudy agency that knows how to write a very sensitive report that glosses over the issue of orientation. However, openly lesbian couples will have considerable difficulty unless they are willing to go to great lengths to lie about their situation -- for example, by having one partner move out during the process.

Most countries do not accept single men, whether straight or gay, and whether partnered or solo. The few that do will generally accept only heterosexual men, who either have no current partner or have an opposite gender partner.

A few countries may accept a single person who is in a known, committed relationship with a person of the opposite gender, but unmarried. However, many will not, considering cohabitation without marriage an unsuitable lifestyle.

Unfortunately, most countries will not accept a single person who is in a known, committed relationship with a person of the same gender. Many of the countries from which Americans adopt have cultural taboos relating to homosexuality. They also have little experience with openly gay people who live just like everyone else, since their gay population has been so marginalized over the years.

Some countries will quietly place a child with a known gay or lesbian couple, if that couple is working with an agency that has a good relationship with officials in the foreign country and if the couple seems especially well-qualified. It is most likely to occur if the child has special needs, though some healthy children have been adopted. But these situations must, at this time, be considered pretty rare.

Gay/lesbian Americans who do not want to lie about their orientation or relationships often wind up adopting domestically. Except in a few states that ban gay adoption, it is often possible for a gay male or lesbian to adopt a child from foster care or to do a private adoption. One person adopts as a single, but the fact that the person is in a committed relationship with a person of the same gender can be made known. Some gays and lesbians have also turned to other options such as the use of a sperm bank, surrogacy, etc.

I also have to add to sharon's comment that in some countries like China, Russia and Ethiopia it is ILLEGAL to be gay. Being openly gay in some countries is punishable by death. It's similar to letting a person who has been convicted of child molestation to adopt.
I also have to add to Sharon's comment that in some countries like China, Russia and Ethiopia it is illeagal to be gay. Being openly gay in some countries is punishable by death. It's similar to letting a person who has been convicted of child molestation to adopt in this country. BY NO MEANS I'M I SAYING THAT GAYS ARE PEDOPHILES. But these stereotypes are probably running through these officals heads.
Sharon - with all due respect, I beg to differ with you on the issue of homophobia. You say that the obstacles the OP faces are not due to homophobia. But they are. The OP asked about same sex partners. Increasingly, same sex partners in Canada, in certain US states and elsewhere eg in the Netherlands are legally married or have civil unions. They (and other gay PAPs) do face homophobia in international adoption. Even if they are married, they cannot adopt abroad the way that non-same sex married couples do.

Similarly, when adopting from certain countries, in order to adopt, a single person must sign an affidavit regarding their sexual orientation swearing that they are not gay. These people are facing homophobia, as such discrimination is obviously intended to discriminate against GLBT people.

Also, it is not the case that gay people cannot adopt here in the United States. A gay couple I know just adopted domestically, even though one of them is trans. They were able to do this by first marrying in Massachussetts, so that they are now adopting as a married couple.
Thanks everyone for your replies
Just to clarify my partner and I are Irish citizens applying to adopt internationally from Ireland. We have been honest with the Health Board who is assessing us. However, as only I will be the legal parent we expected that the approval reports would only include information about me. In Ireland it is rare to adopt domestically. I wonder if it would be possible to adopt from the US. Are there agencies that would be supportive in this regard and what is the process, how long does it take etc?

I dont think there are any other agencies in Ireland who would assess us Җ I am interested in the comment They chose to go international, and were told one would have to adopt as a single woman to succeed.ђ So the agency advised applying as a single applicant even though they knew they were in a same sex relationship and helped them to do that??
Also, especially if they use a gay-friendly homestudy agency that knows how to write a very sensitive report that glosses over the issue of orientationђ how would you go about doing that?
As I indicated earlier, there are only two marital status categories recognized by the laws of most countries and jurisdictions within countries, when it comes to adoption and certain other activities requiring a court determination. Those categories are "legally married" and "single."

If you are legally married, you can adopt as a couple and take on the financial and other responsibilities of parenthood as a couple. The homestudy will reflect your legal status as a married couple. It will show that you live together and comment on the stability and strength of the relationship. It will require police, child abuse, and medical clearances for both members of the couple, and will assess the financial stability of the couple.

If you are an unpartnered single, and the laws of the child's jurisdiction and your own permit singles to adopt, you can complete an adoption as a single and take on the sole responsibility for your new child. The homestudy will reflect your status as an unpartnered single. Depending on the laws of your child's jurisdiction and your own, it may be required to comment on your orientation and relationships with potential partners. You will be required to go through medical, police, and child abuse clearances, and your financial stability will be assessed. If you live with others, such as parents, siblings, or housemates, they will be required to undergo police and child abuse clearances, and, depending on the financial arrangements of the household, some financial information may also be required from these people.

If you are single but cohabiting with a domestic partner of the same or opposite gender, you can adopt as a single if the laws of your jurisdiction and the child's jurisdiction allow it. Under the law, you will take on sole responsibility for your child. However, some jurisdictions may have laws permitting your partner to petition the court, AFTER your adoption, to recognize him/her as an equal partner in your child's upbringing, or at least to grant specific rights such as medical decision-making that are the same as yours.

The homestudy will reflect your status as unmarried domestic partners, and comment on the stability and strength of your relationship. Although you are the legal parent, your partner, because he/she lives with you, will be required to undergo medical, police, and child abuse clearances. If you pool your finances, then the financial stability of the couple will be assessed.

In short, it is absolutely standard practice for ALL people in a household to be included in a homestudy, and for the relationship of unmarried domestic partners (gay or straight) to be discussed.

Now, because some countries and some jurisdictions within countries do not permit cohabiting straight couples, or gay people in general, to adopt, SOME people do make efforts to circumvent the laws. Some people actually have their domestic partners (gay or straight) move out during the homestudy; the social worker may or may not be complicit in this action. Others work with agencies and social workers who are sympathetic, to see just how non-specific the homestudy wording can be to satisfy the relevant legal authorities. In the U.S., information on gay-friendly agencies and social workers circulates quietly or not-so-quietly in the gay community. Technically, a lot (though not all) of this activity is illegal, since an adoption is a legal process, and lying in legal documents is a punishable offense. But the fact is that it occurs.

On the other hand, depending on the type of adoption that is done, it may be possible for cohabiting heterosexual couples, and for gay/lesbian people in general, to be open about their situation. In the U.S., it is not uncommon for children to be placed with either partnered or unpartnered gays and lesbians, and for heterosexuals in a non-marital relationship to adopt.

In short, whether you can adopt as an unmarried gay couple depends on the laws of your jurisdiction and your child's jurisdiction, on whether you are comfortable finding ways to circumvent laws you don't like, and on the actual facts of your situation.

While homophobia certainly exists in the U.S., other English-speaking countries, and Western Europe, most of these countries are light years ahead of other parts of the world in terms of acceptance of gays and lesbians. Most of the countries from which Americans adopt do not accept known gays and lesbians. Others don't have explicit requirements for mention of orientation in the homestudy, so some adoptive families "slip through". And a very few may occasionally and very quietly make an exception for someone who is exceptionally well-qualified and recommended by an agency that is well known in the country.

China was one of those countries that used to be silent on the issue of orientation, and that received a lot of lesbian adopters as a result. Then, it developed some very strict rules, and the numbers fell to almost zero.

Today, a lot of American gays and lesbians prefer domestic adoption, simply because it is more likely to get approved. While a few U.S. states do not allow adoption by gays and lesbians, most do.

In the U.S., there are three basic models of domestic adoption. In one model, you sign up with a non-governmental adoption agency that works with pregnant women or women who have recently given birth. In most cases, the pregnant women are allowed to choose the characteristics of the prospective parents with whom they place their child, if they wish.

Very few gays and lesbians, and relatively modest numbers of heterosexual singles (partnered or not) choose this model of adoption. Aside from the fact that it tends to be expensive, most of the pregnant women who work with agencies choose to place their babies with traditional married couples.

And it is almost impossible for non-Americans to adopt through these private agencies, even if they are heterosexually married. The reason is simple. There are very, very few healthy newborns/infants of any ethnicity available for adoption in the United States. Most agencies have long waiting lists of U.S. citizens waiting to adopt. They don't bother to accept non-Americans, because they don't have enough babies even for families in their own back yard. Many Americans adopt internationally, simply because they don't want to wait five years to receive a referral.

Be aware that this situation prevails in most of the English speaking world and Western Europe. One reason that so many American and Western European families adopt from countries like Ethiopia, Vietnam, Colombia, and so on is that there are very few healthy infants and toddlers available for adoption in their own homelands.

The reason is primarily that the U.S., the English speaking countries, and Western Europe are much more prosperous than other parts of the world, so the vast majority of people can raise the children they bear. They also tend to have a lower birth rate, in part because of an acceptance of family planning and in part because higher income/better educated people tend to prefer smaller families. Their countries tend to have a strong "social safety net" that provides financial and other support to the poor, so they don't have to place their babies. And so on.

Some of the private American agencies may occasionally have older children or children with special needs whom they are trying to place. In some cases, these are children of disrupted international or domestic adoptions. In such cases, they "may" consider non-traditional families or overseas families. And fees are reduced. However, it isn't particularly easy for overseas families to find out about these situations, and domestic families will have priority.

The second model of adoption is the private adoption. Some Americans have a homestudy by a social worker, then seek out possible birthmothers on their own by networking among relatives, friends, local obstetricians, and so on. Once they find a possible situation, they work with an attorney to ensure that they follow all applicable laws and to finalize the adoption.

This model can be risky. There are a lot of scams. And many of the pregnant women will decide to parent, once their babies are born. So it isn't the right option for a lot of Americans. But it is still in active use.

Some gay and lesbian Americans have completed domestic private adoptions. In general, they identify birthmothers who know them, or who have a good deal of familiarity with the gay community, or they simply manage to convince some individual that they are as well qualified to parent as any straight couple.

Private adoption is generally difficult for overseas families, regardless of orientation, unless they are related to the child's birth family. For one thing, some countries, like the U.S., have ratified the Hague Convention on intercountry adoption, and this makes such an adoption more problematic. Fraud and scams abound in international private adoption, making countries especially leery of such situations.

Finally, there is adoption through the U.S. foster care system. While some children are removed from their birthfamilies as newborns, or are abandoned or relinquished in infancy, most of the children in the U.S. foster care system are older or have special needs.

People from overseas who wish to adopt from the U.S. are most likely to adopt from the foster care system, simply because that is the only option open to them. And they almost never adopt healthy infants and toddlers, because they are easily placed domestically.

The children from foster care who are placed with non-Americans are often of school age (often teenage), non-White, and male; they often have significant physical and/or emotional special needs. These are the children for whom families simply can't be found in the U.S.

Because these children are so hard to place, foster care programs are often more open to non-traditional families than other programs. My feeling is that if a well-qualified lesbian (partnered or not) from a country that allows gay people to adopt was open to adopting a school aged child with significant special needs, she could probably do so through the foster care system, without lying about her orientation. It wouldn't be easy, and it wouldn't be quick. But it could be done in some jurisdictions.

All in all, I'm not sure how you can approach adoption in your situation. Despite the perception of some foreigners that the Irish have a lot of babies, there are relatively few healthy infants and toddlers available for adoption, and most Irish adoptive families, even the most traditional, will wait a significant length of time for a placement, unless they are open to older children or those with special needs. That is why many Irish families choose international adoption.

To the extent that birthmothers are allowed to choose the type of adoptive family they wish, they will generally go for married couples. And there is likely to be some agency bias against placing "desirable" children with non-traditional families, including same-sex couples. Thus, your wait for a healthy infant domestically is likely to be even longer than that of a married Irish couple.

If there is an active gay/lesbian community near you, you might ask around for adoption-friendly resources. They might suggest international and domestic situations that have worked for other unmarried couples like you and your partner. They can also suggest ways of navigating the adoption bureaucracy in your own country, though you should be careful to avoid any sort of deception that would land you in legal trouble.

If you are open to older children or children with special needs, you are likely to find a placement in your own country, but you could also explore adoption from the U.S. foster care system, if your country allows it.

All in all, it will not be easy for you to adopt. I don't want to offer false hope. You have a distinct disadvantage over heterosexual married couples, and even over unpartnered single women. But if you consider all of the possible ways to proceed, you may well wind up finding a situation where you can provide a child with a loving family.

Thanks for explaining so clearly the situation for same sex couples hoping to adopt in the US. I had expected the chances to be pretty slim. In the meantime I have discovered that it would be possible to adopt from South Africa or Brazil. Has anyone any experience of adopting from there as a lesbian in a relationship?

I am not sure about the rules from Ireland, but in Canada the rules of adopting from South Africa have gotten quite restrictive. It was once open to singles but is not any longer, it now imposes BMI restrictions as well as age guidelines. From Canada (even though same sex marriage is legal), it is not possible to adopt from SA as a same-sex couple. The program is also beginning to lean towards Christian couples, but this is not an official "rule" yet. It is a fairly conservative country that does not really favour IA...

Anyways - we have adopted from there twice, so if you have any questions about the program feel free to ask. I hope you find something soon that works for you!

I also wanted to say - I would be very cautious in picking which adoption laws you "choose" to follow. There are two reasons for this.

1) You could risk shutting down the entire program if it is found out - agencies could lose licenses, or countires could decide to close to ammend laws to avoid this from happening again. Kids sit in orphanages while all this plays out.

2) Depending on how far you "bend" the rules - you could risk losing your child if it is ever found out. I don't want to go into details here, but I do know of a European couple who were forced to return their adopted child to Kenya after having her for over three years because they circumvented adoption laws.

In recent years international adoption has become more and more restrictive, and while we may not agree with certain countries restrictions, I think we really need to respect the children we are hoping to adopt are their citizens, and they have the right to have rules about this. IA is a gift, not a right.
You raise some excellent points.

First off, it is the right of every sovereign nation to make laws that it deems necessary to protect its most vulnerable citizens. Whether you and I like or don't like the laws that a foreign country makes, we do have to abide by them when we deal with that country.

You and I might feel that it's better for a child to have a single parent or gay parents or a parent who uses a wheelchair than to have that child grow up in an orphanage. But if the foreign country happens to decree that adoptive parents must be married, heterosexual, and able-bodied, it is the country's right to do so.

Agencies and individuals can work behind the scenes to change attitudes -- for example, showing how prosperous single women or lesbian couples can become in our country -- or to advocate in a particular case. They don't have the right, however, to decide that since they don't agree with the foreign laws, they don't have to obey them.

Violating foreign laws, or even going too public with criticism of those laws, can also have undesired repercussions.

When an American life insurance company aired a TV ad showing two Caucasian women in an airport with an Asian baby, in an effort to court the relatively affluent American gay market, it occasioned much discussion in the media.

When the Wall Street Journal -- very insensitively -- actually called the China Center for Adoption Affairs in Beijing to get its opinion of the ad and of adoption by gay and lesbian people, the folks there went ballistic. They opposed, first off, the use of adoption in an ad for insurance, saying that adoption was too "sacred" to be commercialized in this way. But they also made it clear that homosexuality is considered a psychiatric problem and socially deviant behavior in China, and that if they found out that American agencies were submitting dossiers of gay and lesbian people, those agencies would lose their right to place children from their country.

When a well known physician, very open about her orientation and specializing in the health issues of internationally adopted children, adopted a son from Vietnam with her female partner, she somehow managed to avoid problems with the Vietnamese government. She has a foundation that assists foreign orphanages, so that may have impressed the government. But when she agreed to an interview in People Magazine, in which she spoke at length about her partner and her son, the Vietnamese government made it very clear that it would NOT allow further adoptions by gays and lesbians.

As you said so well, when an adoption program closes or becomes much more restrictive, the people who suffer the most are the children. And we who believe strongly in adoption simply have to remember that, and recognize that trying to circumvent laws for our personal benefit can ultimately harm hundreds or thousands of kids.

Still, some agencies do manage to advocate well for gay and lesbian people. And in many cases, they do so without violating laws or sensitizing the foreign government to the issue.

As a straight person, I am not particularly tuned in to sources of information in the gay/lesbian community. However, I do know that in most American cities that have a sizeable gay/lesbian population, there are attorneys, social workers, and others who make it their business to help gay and lesbian people adopt. And, nowadays, with the Internet, people who do NOT live in places with a large gay/lesbian community can often find the information they need.

I do believe that, as non-Americans and lesbians, your chances of adopting from the U.S. are slim. And most of the countries currently open to adoption are not terribly open on gay/lesbian issues. But the fact is that there are probably options for you, unless your own country forbids you to bring a child into your country. Gays and lesbians DO adopt.

All times are GMT. The time now is 3:58 am.