Should same-sex couples adopt? It seems likely settled, in historic turnaround, that they can, in all 50 states, after a decision turning down Mississippi’s anti-same-sex-couple adoption law this spring, with opinion shown in this Huffington article. I’ll add an article supporting the idea that children raised in homes of stable gay couples do as well as anyone.
I must prefix the rest of this by noting that the DC Center for the LGBT Community in Washington plans an information forum in November 2016 on adoption and foster care. It may be intended mainly for couples, but there is a suggestion that all are welcome.
There’s no question that suitability of a parent depends on the character of the parent. It’s pretty easy to imagine Alan Turing as an ideal father figure because he had such unusual integrity and charisma, even though he never tried that role. As a single “straight” man. Edward Snowden comes across the same way to me, because of focus on a moral ideal.
When I was working on my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book in the 1990s, I was surprised to find out how far the subject of gay parents had advanced (when compared to the debate on gay marriage, which was just then livening up in Hawaii). I read a book “Getting Simon: Two Gay Doctors’ Journey into Fatherhood” by Kenneth Morgen, about how determined a Maryland gay couple was to raise a son.
But I want to come at this question through a back door. Should non-traditional parents adopt children? That means not just same-sex couples but singles as well. It also includes ancillary questions like offering foster care, or even overseas sponsorship.
That would seem to depend on the overall level of need, about which evidence online is quite variable and inconsistent.
But if the need is great, that could imply a moral obligation for those who are able to consider adoption.
Adults seem to vary widely on whether they want children. Some couples struggle with fertilization and it is their narratives that sometimes gives valuable clues to the need, as in some cases couples don’t find that there are that many “suitable children” to adopt. A poster at Babycenter notes this real-world experience of many (traditional) couples.
I recall my last year living in Minneapolis, 2003, where I would see seats or signs at bus stops indicating a need for single people to adopt or offer foster care.
There is also a lot of tension on the Internet over whether all capable adults should be prepared to raise children, or if there is something wrong with not “wanting” them. There’s no question, that the “educated middle class” perceives a loss of economic opportunity (men as well as women) and considerable economic risk in having kids at the most “desirable” ages (mid to late 20s). Student debt is a problem. The issue obviously interacts with the intellectual shallowness of the paid family leave debate (like who pays for it?) In a real world, single people often wind up raising siblings’ children (sometimes as a condition for inheriting estates).
The idea that not every adult “wants” kids seems to rankle some people. As this article from Australia suggests, some see it as a kind of “draft dodging”. The BBC reports that people who say outright that they don’t want kids being bullied on social media. Time Magazine even dismisses the reasons for not wanting kids as inappropriately self-serving. The Federalist even refers to a book “What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster” I note the idea of the “personal (mis)use of sex”.
An important process behind this kind of thinking is the idea that much of what is interesting in life only works when “everybody else has to do what you have to do.” In an individualistic world, no one has a right to expect that sort of mandatory solidarity from others. But that’s how authoritarian societies (probably inhabiting whole planets) work.
So, let’s comeback to the questions: can (and should) single people adopt? Parents magazine (generally conservative) gives a guarded “yes”. “Unmarried equality” backs this up with more specifics and notes that some states have specified precedence rules requiring considering married couples first. There’s also the synopsis of a debate from Brazil on whether single people should be allowed to adopt.
Besides adoption and foster car, there is the idea of informal sponsorship of children overseas, which many charities propose. These involve having correspondence with a particular child. To me this now seems a bit inappropriate unless “you” are ready for full responsibility, could travel there and try to adopt.
There is a cold, existential reality that “people life me” face. It is hard to feel personal connection (beyond intellectual empathy) to children of the next generation needing to be supported and reared, without having successfully connected to a member of the opposite sex through sexual intercourse, with a total surrender of self implicit in the process, however temporary and usually reversible.
Update: Oct. 1
A group called UMFS (United Methodist Family Services) had a booth today at northern Virginia LGBT Pride and told me that single people, at least for foster care and probably adoption, were needed. The spokesperson said that couples who claim they cannot find children to adopt usually are “picky” about who they will accept (by age, race, and lack of special needs). Older children who have been in foster care often do have behavior problems.
An aunt in Ohio took care of two foster children on a farm in the 1950s when I visited in the summer. The boy played baseball and was an avid Indians’s fan — and I saw many games in the “Mistake by the Lake” in Cleveland (with the Senators). The girl became a journalist in the Cleveland area.
(Posted: Friday, September 30, 2016 at 3:30 PM EDT)