According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 120,000 children are waiting to be adopted, with another 250,000 entering foster care each year. Since the Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage in 2015, more and more LGBTQ couples are exploring the possibility of co-parenting. They frequently turn to adoption and foster care as avenues to build their families. In fact, same-sex couples are four times more likely to adopt a child than opposite-sex couples, and six times more likely to foster a child.
Changing Adoption Agencies
As groundbreaking as it was, the Supreme Court decision that made marriage legal for these couples did very little to solidify their co-parenting rights. Some couples around the country are now taking action to make adoption and foster parenting more accessible to LGBTQ people.
Kevin and David Patterson were one of the first same-sex couples to be married in Arizona after a marriage equality law was passed there on the state level in 2014. Once they decided to grow their family, they encountered numerous roadblocks, including rejections from adoption agencies because of their sexual orientation. Once approved, only one of the men was listed as the legal parent of their adoptive daughters.
In response to these obstacles, they helped start Project Jigsaw, which facilitates adoptions for same-sex couples, while also advocating for policies that will permanently change the way adoption is handled across Arizona for LGBTQ people.
It was through Project Jigsaw that Steve Zeidman and Brian Hatfield were able to adopt their son, Tristan. Coming of age in a time before same-sex adoption was commonplace, or even conceivable for most people, Zeidman and Hatfield never imagined they would eventually be married with a child. Now, they have a 12-year-old boy who is best friends with a kid named Jayden, the adoptive son of two moms.
“We have the most traditional family you’ve ever met,” Hatfield laughingly told Tucson Weekly.
Not all same-sex parents go through a foster or adoption agency, though. With recent advances in fertility science, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is becoming an increasingly popular method for same-sex couples to have a biological child of their own. However, in some states it is not a given that both partners will be granted parental rights if they go this route.
This was the case for Chantelle and Courtney Graham of Austin, Texas. Through a process called reciprocal IVF, Courtney’s fertilized egg was implanted into Chantelle, who carried and gave birth to their baby, Maiori.
However, despite being legally married and Maiori having Courtney Graham’s DNA, she was not automatically granted parental rights. She was forced to go through the lengthy and expensive process to adopt her own daughter.
Expressing her frustration to Spectrum Local News, Courtney Graham said, “A heterosexual couple that went through IVF, even if they didn’t use the father’s sperm and it was donor sperm, they’re still granted their parental rights. And we aren’t. So that’s what’s really frustrating and really unequal about the law today,”
Last week, with baby Maori already eight months old, a Texas judge finally approved Graham’s adoption. The couple is speaking out to try to make a difference for other LGBTQ couples who want to have children of their own.
In Courtney Graham’s words, “I think part of my like utopia, or my outcome of this would be can we change the laws to get it so that we’re recognized in our marriage, that Maiori’s ours? And maybe that will change with getting the word out there that this is how the laws are today.”
Changing Options for Refugee Families
In some countries, same-sex parents face far more daunting challenges than many can imagine. The Gay Times reports that a couple from Russia are seeking asylum in the United States in order to prevent their two adopted children from being taken away from them.
Andrey Vaganov and Evgeny Erofeev needed medical treatment for their child Yuri. When the doctors discovered the child had no legal mother, they suspected sexual abuse and began an investigation. Authorities now want to remove Yuri from their home and place him in a state-run rehabilitation center, despite their investigation turning up no evidence of abuse.
Taking the advice of a lawyer, Vaganov and Erofeev fled the country. They were legally married in Denmark, and then began the process of seeking asylum in the United States.
According to their lawyer, Maxim Olenichev, “The family is living in the US, the children are enrolled in a school and are trying to adapt to their new conditions in order to start a normal life, because in Moscow it would have been quite difficult for them after what has happened.”
With one of the worst track records for LGBTQ rights in the world, Russia ruled in 2013 to ban “gay propaganda,” which criminalized the promotion of “non-traditional” sexual orientations to minors. LGBTQ people have since been fleeing the country to seek asylum in places with stronger protections for them and their families.