Same-sex parenting in the U.S.

For immediate release
July 31, 2018

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700,000 same-sex couples could be affected by the Aderholt amendment, which would permit faith-based child welfare providers to refuse to place children with same-sex parents.

New research from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that an estimated 114,000 same-sex couples in the United States are raising children and many of them have become parents through adoption or fostering.

According to the study, most same-sex couples who are raising children have biological children (68%), but same-sex couples are significantly more likely than different-sex couples to be raising adopted or foster children. One in five same-sex couples (21.4%) are raising adopted children compared to just 3% of different-sex couples, and 2.9% of same-sex couples have foster children compared to 0.4% of different-sex couples.

“Our findings highlight the importance of laws and policies that encourage and support adoption and fostering by same-sex couples,” said lead author Shoshana Goldberg, PhD, visiting scholar at the Williams Institute. “Without these policies, a qualified population of prospective parents may not have equal access to government-funded child welfare agencies and services.”

Policy Implications—Aderholt Amendment
These findings are especially relevant in light of legislation currently being considered by Congress. The “Aderholt amendment” seeks to insulate religiously affiliated child welfare providers from non-discrimination laws that protect, among others, LGBT adults seeking to foster and adopt children, and LGBT children in the foster and adoption systems. If the amendment passes, states that prohibit adoption and foster agencies from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or family structure could lose substantial federal funding. In addition, federal protections for LGBT parents and children would be at risk under the Aderholt amendment.

Other LGBT Parenting & Child Welfare Research
The Aderholt amendment aims to shield child welfare providers who refuse to place foster or adoptive children with same-sex couples. However, such a view is contrary to previous research. A study by the Williams Institute has found that the children of LGB parents fare as well as children of different-sex parents. Recent findings from the 32-year National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, which has followed the same cohort of offspring from conception to adulthood, showed that the mental health of young adults with lesbian parents is the same as their peers.

The Aderholt amendment also puts LGBTQ children in the child welfare system at risk. A study by the Williams Institute found that nearly 20% of youth in foster care in Los Angeles were LGBTQ—twice the number of LGBTQ youth estimated to be living outside of foster care. In addition, LGBTQ youth had a higher number of foster care placements and were more likely to be living in a group home, which are two challenges toward finding permanent homes.

“The disparities experienced by LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system can have long-term consequences for the health and well-being of these youth,” said Bianca D.M. Wilson, PhD, the Rabbi Barbara Zacky senior public policy scholar at the Williams Institute. “This amendment will limit the number of available homes for youth who really need them and will prevent states from holding prejudiced foster care agencies accountable when they fail to help the LGBTQ youth in their care.”

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