The last panel at the St. John's adoption conference was all about research, and the three panelists were researchers at the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. They are doing such good work there, and it's going to take me several posts to cover what each panelist talked about, so here goes the first one!
Dr. David Brodzinsky (yes, that Brodzinsky, the author of Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self, one of the most important adoption books out there) spoke about his research on adoption by gay men and lesbians. He confirmed what I had read previously -- research shows that there is no difference in the parenting competence of gay or lesbian parents and heterosexual parents; there is no difference in the psychological or social adjustment of children raised by gay or straight parents; children of gay and lesbian parents are no more likely to self-identify as gay or lesbian than children of heterosexual parents; although the children of gay and lesbian parents are likely to be teased because of it, studies do not show any maladjustment because of it. And when kids adopted by straight parents and kids adopted by gay or lesbian parents are compared, there are no differences in adjustment.
Dr. Brodzinsky discussed existing barriers to gay and lesbian parents wishing to adopt -- legal barriers (Mississippi, Utah & Arkansas have explicit bans on gay adoption); societal prejudice/homophobia; religious beliefs limiting agencies who will work with gay/lesbian parents; and stereotypes, misconceptions and myths influencing adoption professionals. In surveying agencies, he said, 60% of agencies said that they worked with gay and lesbian parents, but only 39% had ever placed a child with gay or lesbian parents. Fifty percent of agencies said they would like to have additional training for working with this population.
Dr. Brodzinsky said that adoption professionals definitely needed additional training. They need to understand the law, the fact that in most jurisdictions gay couples cannot adopt as a couple. Agency personnel need to understand and come to terms with their own attitudes toward gays and lesbians, and to learn about the research that debunks myths and misconceptions. Social workers doing home studies need training on how to address sexuality issues. He noted that most agencies operate on a "don't ask, don't tell" basis when it comes to sexual minorities, and that from a counseling perspective, that's a bad thing. The social worker can't ask about issues like when and how the couple plans to explain to their kids, how they would handle a break-up and visitation for the non-legal parent, etc.
FYI, the Institute has two reports about issues relating to adoption by gay men and lesbians: Eliminating Legal and Practice Barriers to Gay and Lesbian Adoption From Foster Care, and Expanding Resources for Children: Is Adoption By Gays and Lesbians Part of the Answer for Boys and Girls Who Need Homes?