Lawyer, Rumbold & Seidelman
President, National Center on Adoption & Permanency
Founder of Lifetime Healing Foundation, Birth Mom
Since single and LGBTQ hopeful parents often have an array of families building options to consider, we thought it would make sense to briefly outline the costs for each.
One popular option to consider is to become a foster parent. Fostering is significantly less expensive than adoption, but in many circumstances, the goal of foster care is to reunite the child with their birth parents. We have a detailed course on fostering we suggest you reference.
For those considering fertility treatment, while intrauterine insemination ($500–$4,000) and in vitro fertilization ($20,000) costs can be easy to approximate, the odds each treatment works (and thus the total costs and timelines) varies by a number of factors, female age being chiefly important.
That said, many single and lesbian women have higher success rates than heterosexual coupled patients who are sub-fertile. We have detailed courses for lesbian (here) and single women which you should consult.
Finally, pursuing IVF with donor eggs and a gestational carrier (often a consideration for gay couples) costs $60,000–$200,000, obviously well above the typical costs to adopt.
We have a detailed course on the subject (here), that includes a discussion on state-by-state complexity, which is worth your referencing.
Most every state law either explicitly states “unmarried adults” are eligible to adopt,or is silent on the terms “married” or “unmarried” (e.g. “any adult person may adopt”).
In reality, the likelihood of adoption will depend upon two factors:
The perspectives of the social worker or agency conducting the home study and who will assess the adoptive parents financial, medical, and emotional capacity to parent.
The preferences of the expectant mother and birth parent.
For this reason, it’s important to work with an agency or attorney who can arrange for home studies to be done with evaluators who’ve previously been respectful of a single person’s wishes to parent (e.g. certain agencies with a religious bent may be disinclined to help you).
Similarly, you want your agency or attorney to have a track record finding and working with expectant parents open to the idea of placing their child with a single parent.
While birth moms want to offer their child stability, and many see that in a couple, others perceive a single parent household to be more reliable and free from upheaval, separation, and divorce.
As to what the experience is like for single adoptive parents, there’s not much data. However, one survey of single mothers of adopted children showed they generally felt like the burden and challenges they encountered were similar to women raising children in a two parent household.
On one hand, as a single parent, you get to establish the rhythm of the house and the behaviors you want to encourage. On the other hand, single parents shoulder a larger financial burden, and if there is an interruption at home or at work, the other may suffer.
If becoming a solo foster parent is an option you’re considering, we recommend taking a look at our course on becoming a solo parent.
Today, over 65,000 adopted children live with a gay or lesbian parent, and current estimates are that roughly 5% of all adoptions are to same sex couples. However, in some regions (e.g. Massachusetts or Washington DC), upwards of 1 in 5 adoptions are to an LGBTQ parent.
It can be important to focus on regionality here, for a number of reasons. First, while most state laws explicitly or implicitly allow for LGBTQ individuals and same sex couples to adopt, there remains a lot of heterogenity between states and fluidity within certain states.
For context, as recently as 2010, the state of Florida explicitly disallowed LGBTQ individuals or couples from adopting.
Next, not all agencies or social workers (who conduct the home study) will be supportive of LGBTQ adoptions. In a number of states (mostly in the southeastern region of the US), agencies contracted with the state are permitted (often on the basis of religious belief) to not work with LGBTQ adoptive parents based upon their sexual orientation.
The Human Rights Campaign recently spearheaded a project to promote LGBTQ inclusive practices and to recognize agencies who are leading the way. Their report recognizes 71 adoption organizations across the country who have met various benchmarks for LGBTQ inclusion.
When we speak with LGBTQ couples who adopted 10–15 years ago, we hear mixed experiences about how they felt perceived by agencies and social workers, but many believe the process has improved.
Third, in some regions birth parents and mothers may be more or less willing to place their child in an LGBTQ home. While some birth mothers might reject the notion, others might be especially keen to do so.
As for the impressions and impact of foster children themselves, a University of Texas survey of foster and adopted children of LGBTQ families showed generally positive feelings.
To the positive, many felt their foster or adoptive parents were more open, accepting and sensitive. The biggest drawback was a fear of being teased.
When investigators at University of Kentucky tried to gauge the impact on adopted children of being part of an LGBTQ family, they recorded similar findings. Seventy-four percent of surveyed children demonstrated positive abilities to cope, feelings about their family, and resilience.
While 57% of children experienced microaggressions, less than 10% experienced bullying or teasing. While microaggressions can be difficult to absorb (bullying or teasing being the hardest), investigators generally found children recounted their experiences with “neutral” or average levels of distress.