Coming on the heels of the Supreme Court’s hearing of oral arguments in a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the case of Edie Windsor, a lesbian from New York who married her longtime partner in 2007 but whose spousal inheritance rights were denied after her spouse’s death, same-sex family rights received welcome support last week when the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a technical report on the long-term progress of children of same-sex parents. The report examined decades of research on families headed by heterosexual and LGBT parents and concluded that parents committed to each other and to their children, not the sexual orientation of the parents, led to good outcomes for children. The report also points out that the historic social stigma and legal bias against families headed by gay parents resulted in restricted access to health care and health insurance coverage as well as other disadvantages for the families and their children, but despite that, children in two-parent families headed by same-sex couples were developmentally and socially resilient to these challenges. The report emphasized the importance of the parents’ commitment to each other and permanent commitment to the children in leading to healthy development.
An abstract of AAP’s technical report, published on the AAP web site states, Many studies have demonstrated that children’s well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents. This declaration from such a respected source on the health and well-being of children is powerful in itself and has potential to advance the progress of marriage and adoption equality, particularly for prospective parents and for children waiting for adoption in states that do not have marriage and adoption equality. According to 4adopt.com, a website that offers services to facilitate adoption by gay families, Florida prohibits adoption by gay and lesbian individuals and couples, while in many other states, adoption is permitted for a single gay parent, but often not by a same-sex couple, or with a second same-sex parent petition.
Locally, the Home for Little Wanderers, a leader in adoption, foster care and family services in Massachusetts since 1799, heralded the AAP’s report with a statement of its own advocacy of same-sex marriage, adoption and foster care by loving and qualified families. The Home, which serves children from birth up to age 21, is a national exemplar for its Waltham House program, one of only three residential programs in the country specifically for LGBTQ teens. Lesli Suggs, LICSW, Senior Director of Program Operations at the Home, commented, “Massachusetts has been on the leading edge of [same-sex marriage and adoption]. We can be really proud of our state. I think that the article just validates what we all know: that the research shows that kids do well in families, however those families are created. In terms of adoption, we’ve developed a niche in the GLBT community. We have a history of supporting GLBT folks who are looking to adopt or become foster parents. That area has grown in the past six or seven years.” Heather MacFarlane, Public Relations Manager for The Home, added, “One change that I have seen is that with social media, especially with Twitter, any time you post information about the fact that the Home does support same-sex adoption and foster parenting, if you use a GLBT hashtag, it spreads like wildfire. If they are a foster family or adoptive parents, a lot of them have come out on social media about the need for more parents. ” Nevertheless, old-fashioned, neighborly chat remains the primary means of spreading the word among potential foster or adoptive parents. “One of the biggest ways we recruit foster parents and adoptive families is through the network of them talking to each other, whether it’s through churches in the city, having kids who go to the same school, or who live in the same neighborhood. We have a cluster of foster families who live in the same neighborhood, and it spreads through them using our services and having good experiences.”
Asked whether Waltham House’s LGBTQ teens are aware of the AAP article and its findings, Suggs responded, “I think so, because they are older. They are a pretty sophisticated group, and I think that is something they follow. For our kids who are in foster care or who are waiting to be adopted, their primary focus is creating a forever family. They aren’t really thinking about how that family is created, they just want a family.”
To read the abstract of the American Academy of Pediatrics technical report on same-sex adoption and access a link to the full report, please visit http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/03/18/peds.2013-0377.full.pdf+html
For more information on adopting or providing foster care, please contact the Home for Little Wanderers at 617/267-3700 , 1-888-HOME-321 or at www.thehome.org.
The Home for Little Wanderers will host the 23rd Voices & Visions Creative Writing and Art Exhibit at its Longview Farm Campus, 399 Lincoln Road in Walpole, Massachusetts on Thursday, May 16 from 5:00-7:00 PM and Friday, May 17, 2013 from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM, and will exhibit the work again as part of its fundraising gala at the Seaport World Trade Center, 200 Seaport Boulevard, Boston, MA, on Wednesday, May 29, 2013. Admission to the exhibit at Longview Farm is free, and the exhibit is the culmination of a year-long project of artistic expression on the theme of “A Journey Through the Ancient Past” featuring work by children in The Home’s residential and special-needs programs. For further details, please call 508/668-7703 or visit www.thehome.org/vv13.
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