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Are you and your partner thinking about starting or expanding your family through adoption, and wondering what your options are?

LGBT-couplesYou essentially have four options, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:

  • A public agency adoption, involving a child who is in the state foster care program
  • An independent adoption, where typically a pregnant mother finds prospective parents and completes the process with an attorney
  • Adopting a child through a private agency
  • Adopting a child from another country
     

The Human Rights Campaign notes that LGBT couples can (and have) adopted children through all four adoption methods; unfortunately, they may face a few challenges.

Independent or agency adoptions, for example, can go awry if expectant parents don’t view same-sex couples as a top choice for placing their child. Foreign adoptions can also be problematic, according to the Human Rights Campaign, due to prejudice, strict laws and cultural practices.

LGBT-AdoptionYet, despite potential roadblocks, a growing number of LGBT couples in the U.S. are adopting. From 2000 to 2009, the number of same-sex couples raising an adopted child rose from 8 percent to 19 percent, according to the Williams Institute analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. Currently, approximately 16,000 same-sex couples are raising more than 22,000 adopted children, according to a recent report from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

And then there’s the matter of cost. It doesn’t cost any more for a LGBT couple to adopt than for a straight couple.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Department of Children & Families offers a Cost of Adoption Fact Sheet that will give you some basic information, including the cost of:

  • Public agency adoption — $0 to $2,500
  • Private adoption — $5,000 to $40,000
  • Independent adoption — $8,000 to $40,000 (average $10,000 to $15,000)
  • Intercountry adoption — $15,000 to $30,000
     

Costs can be daunting, the Cost of Adoption Fact Sheet offers resources to help defray the cost of adoption. And LifelongAdoptions.com gives a quick synopsis of the Adoption Tax Credit and some financing options.

If you’re considering adoption, the following suggestions may help you through the process:

  1. Research relevant state laws and regulations: Family law is generally administered by states, not the federal government. And due to regional differences, the process can be somewhat ambiguous, according to the Family Equality Council. The Child Welfare Information Gateway website offers a searchable database with state-by-state adoption criteria.
     
  2. Find out if an international adoption would be possible: Some countries prohibit same-sex couple adoptions, according to the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs. The Department of State’s website lists available information about the adoption process in more than 175 countries. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association also provides information about foreign country same-sex couple adoptions. Remember, state laws also apply.
     
  3. It’s important to work with the right agency: The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services suggests asking same-sex couples who have adopted for recommendations about agencies they’ve worked with. If you live in an area that restricts same-sex couple adoption, ask how the agency plans to handle potential issues. Lastly, confirm the agency’s website conveys a positive LGBT message, including same-sex couple photos or nondiscrimination statements. (Adoption and foster agencies that work with the national placement nonprofit RaiseAChild.US, for example, all undergo LGBT cultural competence training and certification.) The Department of Health & Human Services also recommends asking prospective agencies how many LGBT families they’ve worked with, how long the process typically takes and how the agency represents same-sex couples to birth parents.
     
  4. Seek out a support system: Parents Magazine recommends connecting with local adoption agency-run support groups, LGBT advocacy organizations and other resources that can help provide encouragement.
     

No matter which approach you take, you should consult with a lawyer for advice on laws that may apply to you1. If you feel at all discouraged during the adoption process, know that public opinion is increasingly on your side. Between 1999 and 2012, public support for same-sex adoption increased from 38 percent to 52 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.

However, if at any time during the adoption process, you feel someone is discriminating against you due to sexual orientation, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommends first discussing the issue with the individual to ensure it’s not a misunderstanding, then approaching the person’s supervisor or administrator — and, when explicit discrimination seems to be present, contacting an LGBT advocacy group for assistance.

1 BMO Harris does not provide tax or legal advice. You should consult your attorney or your tax consultant for tax or legal advice. Banking products and services are provided by BMO Harris Bank N. A. BMO Harris Bank® is a trade name used by BMO Harris Bank N.A. Member FDIC.

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