Saturday, October 22, 2011

Evan Donaldson Adoption Institute report identifies best practices in adoption...but supports same-sex marriage for the wrong reason

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute issued a new report this week on Research-Based Best Practices in Adoption by Gays and Lesbians.  It includes the results of a survey of 158 adoptive parents.  What the researchers learned from those parents, combined with information from other sources about LGBT adoption, produced a series of recommendations.  These includes creating an atmosphere welcoming and respectful of LGBT prospective adoptive parents; promoting sensitivity and competence among agency staff; providing pre- and post-adoption support to LGBT families; providing pre-adoption support and education for birth families and older children; and supporting research on adoption and parenting.  After three previous reports on LGBT adoption: on the number of agencies working with LGBT clients; on the research finding no child-centered reason to oppose LGBT adoption; and on eliminating barriers to LGBT adoption of children from foster care; it's terrific to read a report focused not on whether LGBT individuals and couples should be able to adopt but on how to make those adoptions work better for everyone.

But I do have a quarrel with one recommendation: advocate for the passage of gay marriage laws.  If the researchers had stopped with saying that denial of access to marriage stigmatizes same-sex relationships and that's not good for the children they raise or for creating a climate in which more gay people want to adopt, well, I'd be fine with that.  But this is what they said:
Marriage promotes relationship stability for heterosexual adults compared to cohabitation, and consequently leads to healthier long-term psychological adjustment for children.
On this point, they should know better.  The causal link between marriage and better child outcomes is highly contested.  Those who make this claim generally oppose policies that respect and promote family diversity.  I think the reference to "relationship stability" refers to the length of time the relationship lasts.  Yet the one longitudinal study (peer-reviewed, published in the prestigious journal, Pediatrics) of children of lesbian couples that has studied the children when they were 17 years old found no difference in the well-being of those children whose mothers had split up and those who were still together.

But it get worse.  The next sentence reads:
If the well-being of children is to be paramount, then there is reason to expect that the marriage of their parents -- including when they are gay or lesbian -- will further the same objective.
Now this is the same organization that, along with every other highly regarded national child welfare organization, asserts that a substantial body of research demonstrates that children of LGBT parents suffer no psychological detriment when compared to children raised by heterosexuals.  And those were unmarried LGBT parents. In other words, children have done fine living with LGBT parents who could not marry each other, so what is this assertion that marriage of those parents will produce healthier children?

 I appreciate that the researchers support marriage equality.  But they should know better than to do so in the name of producing better-adjusted children.  It gives too much credit to arguments that are used inappropriately when discussing heterosexuals, and it disregards the well-being of the children LGBT parents have been raising for decades.





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