LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL COUPLES AND INDIVIDUALS RAISING CHILDREN IN INCREASINGLY LARGE NUMBERS
WASHINGTON, D.C.- The Williams Institute and the Urban Institute today released a major study on adoption and foster care by lesbian and gay parents. The study uses census data and other government surveys to explore the characteristics of out lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals who are adoptive or foster parents, and the children and youth in their care. The research team also estimates the economic and social costs of banning such adoptions and foster care, a prospect under debate in legislatures and courts in several states.
Allowing lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals and couples to adopt or provide a foster home to children has been the subject of controversy. Currently, state policies regarding LGB adoption and fostering vary. Some have outright bans: Florida forbids "homosexuals" from adopting; Mississippi bans "same-gender" couples, and Utah bans all unmarried couples. Other states, including California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington DC, have policies which prohibit sexual orientation from being used as a basis to prevent a prospective applicant from being a adoptive or foster parent. LGB people in the remaining states may face discrimination when applying to be adoptive or foster parents.
LGB people in the United States are already raising children in significant numbers. According to census figures, more than one in three lesbians has given birth, and one in six gay men have fathered a child. The Williams/Urban study estimates that 65,500 adopted children and currently living with a lesbian or gay parent, amounting to four percent of all adopted children in the United States. Additionally, the study found that and that 10,300 foster children are living with lesbian or gay parents. Nearly 52,000 lesbian and gay households include an adopted child under the age of 18.
"While this data is limited by only having information about openly gay, lesbian and bisexual parents, it still demonstrates that a significant number of LGB individuals and couple are raising children," said Gary J. Gates, Senior Research Fellow at the Williams Institute, "As LGB families become more visible in our society, this number will only grow, and it is crucial that we have more data related to this demographic," Gates continued.
"Research measuring child well-being among children raised by LGB parents shows no negative consequences," said Gates. "In fact, studies show that these parents tend to have a higher percentage of qualities that are highly desirable. On average, LGB adoptive parents and same-sex couples raising foster children are older and more educated than other foster parents. In addition, many LGB adoptive parents have access to more economic resources than other adoptive parents," Gates concluded.
Currently, several states are considering laws and policies that would prevent LGB people from adopting and fostering. According to the Williams/Urban study, such policy changes would bring additional and significant instability in the lives of youth in the foster care system. Children currently placed with existing LGB foster parents would be removed from those families: nationally, an estimated 9,300 to 14,000 children would be displaced. Children in the foster care system who are available for adoption may remain there longer or might never be adopted at all. LGB people, a group of potential parents who might be well-suited to provide placements for LGB youth, would be eliminated: a recent study on Midwestern youth who are or were in the foster care system found that almost 7 percent identified as homosexual or bisexual.
"Instability is not good for children," said Jennifer Macomber. "Studies show that the number of moves between placements is associated with multiple harmful outcomes for children, including a higher probability of having at least one severe academic skill delay; more outpatient mental health visits; increased behavioral problems; and lower probability of adoption. A review of studies conducted from 1960-1990 showed that fewer placements was associated with better school achievement, less criminal activity, more social support, increased life satisfaction, greater housing stability, better self-support, and better caring for one's own children."
Additionally, the economic cost of banning LGB people from adopting and fostering would be significant. "Or research indicates that a national ban on LGB foster case could cost from $87 to $130 million," said M.V. Lee Badgett, Research Director at the Williams Institute. "States would incur higher foster care system expenditures as children who are removed from non-kin care homes would be placed in group or institutional care, at greater cost. Additionally, states will incur extra costs to train new foster parents."
The Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law & Public Policy advances law and public policy through rigorous, independent research and scholarship, and disseminates its work through a variety of education programs and media to judges, legislators, lawyers, other policy makers and the public. For more information, please see: http://www.law.ucla.edu/williamsinstitute
To promote sound social policy and public debate on national priorities, the Urban Institute gathers and analyzes data, conducts policy research, evaluates programs and services, and educates Americans on critical issues and trends. For more information, please see: http://www.urban.org/