Sean’s profile had just enough evidence for me to want to reach out to him. He had a sparkle in his eye, short bouncy curly locks and a pink shirt, and I think both ears were pierced. He looked very cool and quirky.
His profile stated he would like to “start a charity of his own so he could help kids who need families” and his “three wishes are to become famous, be a great family member, and stop bullying all over the world.” I admired his qualities.
I wished I could adopt Sean. Instead, I am an advocate for teens in foster care that are waiting to be adopted. I have seven children of my own, four of whom I adopted.
I included Sean in a “card shower” event, where kids from Camp Quest Chesapeake saw Sean’s profile and composed hand written cards on recycled card paper. I also sent out Sean’s profile to other friends, hoping they too would want to send an inspiring message.
To my surprise, one couple reached out and expressed an interest in Sean.
“Is Sean free for adoption?,” my friend asked.
“Yes,” was my answer. I called the caseworker and asked if it would be okay if I shared her contact information for a possible match.
“Yes,” she said.
But our quest to find Sean a permanent and loving family faces a significant barrier: The adoptive couple is gay. The caseworker did not realize it at the time; I did not know about the law at the time.
In 49 states that would not be a deal-breaker, but Mississippi is the only state that maintains a ban on adoption by same-sex couples. And still today, private and state agencies are receiving millions of dollars in state funding, allowing some agencies to discriminate against families they believe do not fit into their doctrine. (There are the private religious adoption agencies all over the states, that are still allowed to discriminate against non-traditional families who are gay or not religious, but that is another matter).
It’s too soon to know if anything will happen for this teenager and this prospective adoptive family. But as it stands, the laws could be a barrier to matching teens like Sean with any LGBT prospective adoptive parents.
The Human Rights Campaign is calling for an end to discriminative adoption laws, particularly in Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, “On August 13, renowned attorney Roberta Kaplan with the Family Equality Council and the Campaign for Southern Equality against the Mississippi Department of Human Services filed a lawsuit to overturn the state’s discriminatory 15-year-old ban preventing same-sex couples from adopting children”
On August 29th, HRC Mississippi, hosted its first-ever statewide Equality Summit. It is calling on “Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to refuse to defend the discriminatory law by reminding him that no other state in the country currently enforces a ban that expressly bars same-sex couples from adopting.”
According to the HRC, “Hundreds of children across Mississippi currently await adoption in foster homes, yet this ban prevents them from being adopted by loving, caring same-sex couples interested in growing their family via adoption.
The ban seems even sillier when you consider that 29 percent of Mississippi’s same-sex households were raising kids; the highest rate in the country.
Sean’s prospective adoptive parent emailed me just a few days ago. He sounded somewhat disappointed about the way things were progressing. He said they submitted their home study and are awaiting a dialogue with Sean.The wheels are turning slowly. “I’m pretty sure that’s because she has never run into a such a situation”, he said. I agree.
Non-traditional families and teens are the new growing minority in adoption. These groups have longer wait times for placements than average traditional families. Gay teens in foster care are scared to reveal too much information about them selves. The fear of being rejected on both ends, in foster care and adoption, only leads to a hostile introduction into the system. According to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, “78 percent of LGBT youth face bias or harassment in their foster care placements because of their sexuality or gender identity”
Here we have a teen waiting, and a gay family who is wanting to adopt, the home study is done….and this child still waits.
When a system is in need of foster parents and good people are being refused equality in adoption, no one wins, not even love. The state is in need of equality in foster and adoptive parents.
These families need our support and help. These laws need to change in order to help people not hurt them.