An Inside Look at Gay Adoption
“The Federal Government, and any State or local government that receives Federal funding for any program that provides child welfare services...shall not discriminate or take an adverse action against a child welfare service provider on the basis that the provider has declined or will decline to provide, facilitate, or refer for a child welfare service that conflicts with, or under circumstances that conflict with, the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.”
Couched in language that supposedly protects the “religious rights” of those who are anti-LGBTQ, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala) submitted this Amendment to the House Appropriations Committee. This Amendment is eerily similar to two bills submitted last year. Upon the positive action of the Republican-majority House of Representatives, Aderholt stated, “As Co-Chairman of the House Coalition on Adoption, my goal was straightforward (no pun intended): to encourage states to include all experienced and licensed child welfare agencies so that children are placed in caring, loving homes where they can thrive. We need more support for these families and children in crisis, not less.”
This writer recently had the opportunity to interview two gay couples in Rehoboth Beach, both of whom have adopted children. These couples are John and Keith Riley-Spillane, and Mike Ryan and Kevin Reagan. No better understanding of gay adoption issues can be gained than from those who have gone through it. Herewith is part of the Q & A exchange with these two loving couples.
What factors went into your decision to adopt?
Riley-Spillane: Ten years into our relationship, we wanted children, but decided that the timing was not right. Jump ahead nine years. We reevaluated where we wanted to go in life as we still had a desire to have children. We were in a better position financially, had a much larger home, and had a lot more patience and time for children. We began looking into the adoption process and decided that it would be best to become foster parents first. We still weren’t sure parenting was going to be our thing, so by fostering we could “try out” parenting.
Ryan/Reagan: As we grew together as a couple, we knew that we wanted to expand our family. We attended many conferences by a local group in New Jersey called Rainbow Families, which helped to educate us about different options that were open to us. This helped us identify an adoption agency that we felt was the best match for us and had a clear process that we believed in.
How old was/were your children at time of adoption?
Riley-Spillane: We fostered about 15 children before children came to us who were available for adoption. We have adopted three times. Our two oldest, Asia and Frank, were six and four-and-a-half years old, respectively, when we adopted them. Our third child, Janene, was four months old when she came to us as a foster child and was under three years of age when her adoption was finalized. Our fourth and last child, Kaden, was five weeks old when he came to us and his adoption was finalized just after he turned two years of age.
Ryan/Reagan: Our son was three days old when we met him at the hospital.
What obstacles did you face as you took steps to adopt?
Riley-Spillane: Since we went through the welfare system to adopt, the obstacles were the training we had to complete on an ongoing basis, waiting for a placement, and then the process of termination of parental rights. A child has to reside in your home for six months prior to an adoption being granted; fortunately, the processes do happen concurrently.
Ryan/Reagan: The limitations presented by some adoption groups and agencies, including not being able to adopt openly internationally. The reality is that there is a divide with options for those who have greater access to money. Examples include working with private lawyers and private agencies, or the challenges of working with public agencies to foster, then adopt.
What advice would you give other gay parents as they decide to adopt?
Riley-Spillane: Research your options first. Be your child’s biggest advocate. Develop a support system and use it when needed.
Ryan/Reagan: Making the decision to adopt is a huge step and requires great reflection. Any couple must be confident in who they are as individuals in order to raise a child. You must also be confident in your spousal relationship. Raising a child as a couple requires teamwork, communication, and patience.
Many thanks to John and Keith and to Mike and Kevin for their insight, their interest, and their love for their children. Gay couples who adopt face many of the same obstacles and rewards that straight couples face. It is much less about being gay—it is more about being loving parents. Let’s hope that Aderholt’s Amendment is removed from the Appropriations Bill. Many children await adoption by loving parents, gay or straight. ▼
David Garrett is a straight advocate for equality and inclusion. He is also the proud father of an adult transdaughter. Email David Garrett