The number of same-sex couples adopting children in B.C. is at an all-time high, representing nearly 40 per cent of families adopting North American children through private agencies.
That’s because marriage appears to have given them many more options.
“[Something] they never thought they could do before was getting married and then having children. I think we see a lot of that influencing their decision to move forward,” says Leslie Louie, adoption social worker at Family Services of Greater Vancouver.
In the last 10 years since same-sex marriage was legalized in B.C, private adoption agencies saw a significant increase in applicants coming forward from the same-sex community. This increase reflects a higher population of same-sex couples that are coming out, getting married, and facing greater social acceptance.
As more and more same-sex parents go through the adoption process and are successful, that helps spur other parents to do the same.
Randy Simpson and his partner, Drew, adopted their son Jack when he was a baby and deliberately went public with their story to encourage others.
The three were part of a documentary on gay fathers called Fatherhood Dreams.
“We were very happy to do it,” says Simpson. “We thought, just the visibility of us doing this is bound to open, you know, a lot of potential for other people that are not necessarily thinking it was even possible.”
Morgan Brayton, who in 2011 adopted her two children with partner Michele, agrees that it’s important knowing others have led the way.
“Anytime there’s more visibility around something, then it opens up doors for other people to do it.”
Brayton also believes the practice of adoption fits in well with the essence of LGBT communities.
“I think that as a community, queer people are really used to forming families of choice rather than families of birth so it makes perfect sense that adoption is a way that we choose to form our families.”
In some cases, birth parents actively seek out same-sex parents for their children.
When adoptions are done through private agencies, the birth parents of the child have the final say as to which parents they want their child to go live with. Parents might consider factors such as profession, address, religion, and race while making their choice.
“We have heard often stories of birth mothers through private adoption, choosing two men to place her birth child with because she knows she will never be replaced. The child will have two fathers but she will always be their only mother,” says Brayton.
“I think that there are a lot of women that feel really comfortable with gay men and that they know they’d make great parents. So lot’s of good reasons for it happening.”
Although same-sex adoption has become more prevalent, not many resources are tailored to support the unique needs of adoptive LGBT parents.
“Resources available to them would be the same resources available to anyone that adopts,” says Robin Pike, executive director at Choices Adoption and Counselling Services.
LGBT adoptive parents will usually rely on the assistance of the adoption agencies they work with, though some say it’s not quite enough help.
“It could be better,” says Louie. “I think we can always provide more support and resources for any prospective or adoptive parents.”
Louie believes some organizations such as the Adoptive Families Association of B.C. have made a good effort to reach out to the LGBT community.
The process of adopting a child is exactly the same for same-sex and heterosexual couples and usually takes between one and three years.
Couples looking to adopt can go through the Ministry of Family and Child Development or a private adoption agency.
While adoption through the ministry is practically free of charge, those looking for the services of private adoption agencies must be ready to deal with steep prices. These generally float around $8,000, but can soar to upwards of $50,000 in cases of international adoption.
Adopting a child from a country outside of Canada is currently a limited option for same-sex parents. However, according to Delia Jane Ramsbotham, managing director at Sunrise Family Services Society, both Canada and the United States have adoption programs that are open to same-sex couples.
There are hundreds of children under the ministry’s care alone, not to mention those who are waiting for adoption through private agencies.
The 2011 Census Canada shows:
[column size=”one-fifth”]There are 64,575 same-sex couple families in Canada. [/column]
[column size=”one-fifth”]There were nearly 3x as many same-sex married couples in 2011 than in 2006. [/column]
[column size=”one-fifth”]9.4% of same-sex couples had children at home. [/column]
[column size=”one-fifth”]There were 6,410 same-sex couples with children in Canada, 965 in B.C.[/column]
[column size=”one-fifth” last=”true”]80.3% of all same-sex couples with children in Canada were female couples. [/column]