LGBT rights have been a major topic of public discussion in the last decade. The recent Supreme Court decision to allow same-sex marriage in all 50 states is an important change. While some states like Florida and New Hampshire explicitly prohibit gay men and lesbian women from adopting children, more than 22 other states allow it, citing evolving social science research that proves same-sex couples provide the same level of care to children as heterosexual couples. Fortunately, Pennsylvania is one of the 22 states that understand all children deserve a loving home and that LGBT parents are equally able to provide a warm and stable home as straight parents.
In Pennsylvania, a potential adoptive parent’s sexual orientation cannot be grounds for refusing an adoption. No scientific evidence exists that same-sex couples are unfit to be parents, and as many as six to 14 million children in the United States currently live with at least one gay parent.
Home environments with same-sex parents are just as likely to provide acceptable support for a child’s development as heterosexual parents. Sexual orientation does not influence parenting skills, and children derive role models from countless adults and relatives they meet. Having a male father figure and a female mother figure is not a prerequisite for a healthy upbringing. Children of same-sex parents face no disadvantages compared to children of opposite-sex parents.
The Adoption Crisis in the U.S.
There are about half a million children in the foster care system of the United States, and 100,000 of them require adoption. However, adoptive parents only adopted about 20% of this number last year. This means there is many children stuck in the foster care system, and some of them can move between temporary homes until they reach 18. This increases the risk of children engaging in substance abuse, criminal behavior, and developing personality disorders and learning disabilities.
Due to the staggering number of children left to languish in the national foster care system, adoption policies have grown more inclusive over recent years. Many child welfare agencies have adjusted their policies to allow for single or married homosexual parents to adopt children. Ultimately, the child welfare system adheres to a doctrine of operating “in the best interests of the child,” and the sexual orientation of prospective parents is no longer an exclusionary factor. Many child welfare systems throughout the U.S. now recognize the fact that same-sex parents can provide the same kind of loving and nurturing environment as heterosexual couples.
LGBT Adoption in PA
Single LGBT individuals in Pennsylvania may petition to adopt, and the child welfare system may not deny a petition solely based on the petitioner’s sexual orientation. Same-sex couples may also petition to jointly adopt in PA, and a same-sex partner may adopt the biological child of his or her partner from a past relationship or marriage. These provisions allow for same-sex couples to either adopt a child from the foster care system or legally adopt a child from a previous relationship with the same-sex parents as the legal and physical custodians of the child.
It’s important to remember that if a same-sex couple arranges for a surrogate or gestational carrier, or one of the partners conceives through assisted reproduction medicine, they must still apply for adoption. Without a legitimate adoption, the biological parents could still contest for custody, and could very likely win with such a petition. Unmarried same-sex couples also have the option to petition to jointly adopt without marrying.
If you have questions about adoption in PA as an LGBT parent, a family law attorney can be a tremendous help. Your attorney can not only ensure you meet the legal criteria for adoption in PA but also manage the paperwork and petitioning process to help the adoption go smoothly.