Welcome to the GWK gay adoption knowledge center for queer men. Adoption is a wonderful way to create your forever family with a child ranging in age from newborn to a teenager. We like to acknowledge up front that the road to adoption can be long, complicated, and emotional and we’ve put much time and effort into building out this section as a valuable resource for you.
However, the best way for you to learn the ins-and-outs of LGBTQ adoption (including which adoption path is best for you and your family) is to enroll in GWK Academy. This will give you access to our unique curriculum of more than a dozen lessons all created specifically to guide gay men like you through each step of your private domestic infant adoption, foster-adoption, or international adoption journey. You’ll also get coaching calls, connections with mentor dads, and introductions to GWK-vetted and approved family-building partners all for just $99 USD.
Whatever your next step, you likely already have several questions before you get started, which is why we answer some of the most basic and common adoption-related questions below.
Let’s first get this question out of the way: Can LGBTQ people legally adopt in the United States? Many people are surprised to learn that the answer in every state in the country is unequivocally: YES!
This is thanks to the Supreme Court ruling, on June 26, 2015, which struck down all bans on same-sex marriage in the country. This ruling, in turn, paved the way for gay adoption to become legal across the country.
Since March 2016, when Mississippi became the last state to have its ban on same-sex marriage overtured, gay adoption has been legal in all 50 states and Washington, DC.
Of Course, It’s Not Quite That Simple…
Many states have started passing bills that allow tax-funded child welfare agencies to legally discriminate against prospective LGBTQ parents on the basis of religious objections. (Some others have passed pro-LGBTQ bills forbidding this.)
These laws also often target single people, and have even been used to target people of different faiths. For this reason, it is important to know the adoption laws in your state.
It bears repeating — though certain agencies may discriminate against LGBTQ people, it is still legal for queer people, in all 50 states, to adopt and serve as a foster parent. You will just need to make sure to find an LGBTQ-affirming adoption agency or professional. Every state should have at least one inclusive agency available for you to work with.
There are three main ways gay, bi and trans men and couples can adopt a child:
There are two ways to privately adopt a newborn in the United States;
1) The Work — Professionals at an adoption agency will do most of the work for you. Going the independent route with an adoption attorney will require you to take on responsibility for hiring a social worker to conduct your home study, advertising your family profile to birth parents, and managing the matching process with a birth parent / family.
2) The Costs — The amount you’ll spend for independent adoption can vary more widely than with an agency. Independent adoption can range from $15,000 to $40,000, while adopting through an agency typically averages between $20,000 and $45,000.
3) The Law — Independent adoption is not legal in all U.S. states. Where it is legal, moreover, restrictions often exist — such as whether or not you are allowed to advertise for a birth parent, or use a “facilitator,” to help conduct parts of the process. So if you go the independent route, it will be especially important to know the laws in your state. w
1) The Timeline — Both paths average roughly 24 months, start to finish, before an infant adoption is complete.
2) The Process — Whichever route you take, independent or with an agency, private domestic adoption is a birth-parent driven process. The birth mother will pick adoptive parents, and can decide whether or not she ultimately would like to parent. It’s important to recognize and respect this fact, and to be patient — you will be matched with a birth mom eventually.
For LGBTQ+ individuals and couples, our options to adopt abroad are limited — most countries don’t allow foreign queer people to adopt. There are two countries that are notable exceptions to this rule and welcome LGBTQ applicants; South Africa and Colombia.
Still, thousands of people in the United States successfully adopt children from abroad each year. Spence-Chapin, a GWK Partner to Fatherhood, runs intercountry adoption programs in both South Africa and Colombia.
International adoption, also called “intercountry adoption,” has been steadily declining in recent years thanks to the tightening of international standards put forth in an international treaty known as the Hague Convention, signed by many countries in 1993. Here is a great blog post on the topic.
This, in fact, is a good development — the Convention is credited with helping safeguard children during the intercountry adoption process and protecting against child trafficking.
The most important difference with choosing adoption through foster care is that the goal of the foster care system is to reunite children with their families.
Even if you are hoping to build your forever family through the foster-adopt process, it’s important to be supportive of this ultimate goal. Some more facts to consider;
About 25% of the over 400,000 children in foster care have been “legally freed” for adoption — meaning the rights of their biological parents have been legally severed, and they are eligible for permanent placement in a forever home.
The average age of a child in foster care is 8, which is also about the age children typically become freed for adoption. While it is certainly possible to adopt a younger child through the foster care system, it may take more time. If you have your heart set on parenting a child from birth, the private domestic adoption process may be your best path forward.
Children in foster care have been placed there due to documented neglect or abuse. There are many resources available to help — but as a prospective adoptive parent, it will be important to ask yourself if you feel confident in your ability to seek out the education and training necessary to successfully parent a child with special needs.
One benefit to adopting through foster care is that these placements come with resources the other paths lack — the process is typically free, and includes a monthly stipend to help cover the costs of child rearing up until the child turns 18 (or 21 in some states).
Regardless of which path you ultimately choose, it will be important to work with a gay adoption agency or lawyer with a commitment to and a long track record of success working with LGBTQ families. For more resources and step-by-step guidance in finding an LGBTQ-Affirming Adoption Agency information, enroll in the GWK Academy.
For many adoptive parents, one of the most concerning parts of the adoption process is the home study — but the process is meant to be helpful. It will include education for prospective parents, and an evaluation of your fitness to serve as an adoptive or foster parent.
A home study is a required step for any family wanting to adopt any child. It is used for private and public adoptions, and for foster care, stepparent adoptions, kinship adoptions (when grandparents or other family members are raising a child), and second-parent adoptions following a surrogate birth or sperm donation.
The name ‘Home Study’ is misleading — this process is about much more than your home. It generally lasts anywhere from 3 to 6 months, and will involve everything from background checks and interviews with the members of your household, to examinations of your physical and financial health, education and training where needed, and much more.
It is also a vital tool in preparing your growing family for the questions and realities ahead: race, identity, belonging, grief, curiosity about birth family, answering nosy questions from strangers and teaching your child how to respond to racial bias are some of the common themes addressed during this process.
It may sound overwhelming, but the process is meant to help build your capacity to be the best, and most prepared, adoptive parent you can possibly be.
For more information on how to prepare for the Home Study please enroll in The GWK Academy. The GWK Academy will help you to know who will be conducting the home study, what they will be looking for, what is expected of you and what could possibly disqualify you.
The costs of adoption vary widely in the United States — from practically nothing when adopting through foster care, to $50,000 or more if adopting internationally.
Adopting a newborn through an agency can cost from $20,000 to $45,000 according to data from the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
Expenses will include, but are not limited to, those associated with completing your home study, legal documentation and authentication, any birth mother and birth family counseling needed, post-placement support, and more. The biggest expense will be the lawyer’s fees — both for the prospective parents’ lawyer and the birth mother’s lawyer.
Adopting independently, without a gay adoption agency, can cost between $15,000 to $40,000. The main variable to be aware of involves advertising expenses.
With an agency, the costs associated with advertising for a birth family will typically be included in your agency fees, but if you are working independently, with an adoption lawyer or facilitator, advertising fees will vary — and be dependent on your own eagerness. Less advertising means less expense, of course, but the flip side is that your match may take longer to find.
One huge advantage to adopting through the foster care system is that it is affordable for anyone. Fostering is low to no costs — just requiring time, love, and patience.
There are no out-of-pocket costs, no costs to engage with the agency, no cost to get the necessary training or required classes, and no cost to have your home study done. Additionally, foster parents are provided a stipend to cover medical expenses, transportation, food, and other necessities — the total amount of your stipend will depend on your state.
Though no money is required, particularly for those hoping to adopt permanently, fostering is not without emotional risks. When children are first placed with your family, efforts are focused on reunification with the family of origin, which is usually about a year-and-a-half’s worth of time. Those 18 months can be harrowing for foster parents who are forming attachments to the children in their care.
Those with expendable income may be able to fast-track the process by partnering with a private agency that works in conjunction with the state or county — such agencies should exist in every state, and the costs of doing so may be somewhere near $2,000. The advantage is time.
Additionally, however, through some research, you may be able to find a private agency that is LGBTQ-affirming, and not worry about a public agency assigned to you by the state.
It’s important to note that many countries prohibit LGBTQ people from adopting within their borders. Moreover, international adoptions are significantly more complicated than they were in years past due to the Hague Convention.
Still, there are several programs available to queer men who have their heart set on adopting abroad. Most notably, GWK partner Spence-Chapin runs programs with two countries that are welcoming and affirming to LGBTQ people — in South Africa and Colombia.
It is often slightly more expensive to adopt internationally through these programs that it would be to adopt domestically. This is in part due to the costs associated with travel and lodging.
Most international adoption programs require the adoptive parents to finalize the adoption within their borders for a period of several weeks. You will be responsible for flying yourself to your child’s country of origin, and paying for lodging. You will also need to pay additional costs for things like immigration and documentation for your child in order to bring them back to the United States legally.
There are some resources available to help offset the costs of adoption.
First, check to see if you qualify for the adoption tax credit.
Then check out HelpUsAdopt.org — it is one of the few grantmaking groups that will work with LGBTQ adoptive parents. They also work with single parents.
Be sure to check on employer-provided adoption benefits. If your employer doesn’t offer these benefits, it can be worth the effort to talk with your human resources department about instituting them.
Some families have also successfully crowdfunded for adoption using GoFundMe or Indiegogo.
For more information on how to breakdown the costs of all forms of adoption including what to expect for: birth mother’s living and medical expenses, agency fees, lawyer fees, home study fees, post placement support costs, advertising fees, licensing fees (for foster care) as well as the additional costs of an international adoption including immigrations documentation, international provider program fees and travel and accommodations please enroll in the GWK Academy. The GWK Academy will help you break down all the fees and provide potential resources to help offset the cost of adoption.