Procedures for Gay Couples Looking to Adopt

Gay and lesbian couples have been expanding their families through adoption for a long time, and as legislation has changed over the years, more options have become available. While every gay couple's adoption process is unique, there are some standard procedures and steps every adoptive parent must go through, and facts and resources that can be helpful when considering adoption.

Options for Gay Parents

Rear view of a boy walking with two men in a park
ONOKY - Eric Audras/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Once you and your partner have determined that adoption is right for you and your family, you need to do some research into the adoption possibilities.

Gay couples can explore all avenues of adoption, including foster care adoption, traditional adoption, and international adoptions.

While 50 U.S. states have made adoption legal for same-gender couples, some states also require that a couple is in a legally-recognized relationship in order to adopt, whether the couple is same-gender or heterosexual.

Adoption Profile

Just as with heterosexual couples who are looking to adopt, your adoption agency will ask you to create an adoption profile. The profile should include details about your life, home, reasons for wanting a child, and plans for how you will raise a child, along with photographs that clearly illustrate the sort of home and lifestyle your adopted child would be entering into.

Adoption profiles are shared with birth mothers and parents who are planning to put their children up for adoption to help them determine which adopting family they want to choose. Your profile should be open, honest, and paint a picture of the life you can offer an adopted child.

The Adoption Home Study

The adoption home study is one of the first hurdles in any adoption process. While the procedure can vary, a home study usually involves someone from an adoption agency visiting you at your home to conduct a personal interview and examine your home in order to determine if it is a safe and stable environment to bring a child into.

In the past—and likely still today in some areas of the country—some gay couples have resorted to lying about their statuses so they could adopt. For example, one partner files for the adoption, while the other pretends to be a roommate or a friend.

It is imperative to recognize the importance of honesty when you're adopting.

Although it may be legal to omit certain information, it is not legal to lie when you're asked a specific question. It may be considered fraud and could be cause for an adoption to be denied or for an already established placement to be disrupted.

Second Parent Adoption

When a gay couple adopts, it is common for one partner to adopt and the second to then apply to the court as a second parent or co-parent. A couple does not need to have a legally-recognized relationship in order to pursue a second parent adoption, which makes it an appealing option for gay couples who choose to not get married or enter into a civil union.

Second parent adoption is also common when one partner already has a child when entering the relationship and the other partner wants to become a parent to the child.

Second parent adoptions create another legally-recognized parent for adoptive children, providing all the same parent/child rights and responsibilities that other families enjoy. Second-parent adoptions have been granted by the courts in 16 states.

Child Welfare Concerns

Many studies have attempted to determine how children are being raised in gay and lesbian unions. These studies are sometimes biased depending on who has done the research. Gay and lesbian groups tend to show positive results, while religious or conservative groups often indicate negative results.

Many of the concerns center around understanding sexual orientation and establishing whether children will develop emotional problems due to having gay parents.

Know that there has not been a single study showing that the children of gay or lesbian parents are disadvantaged in any significant respect. 

Support and Resources for Gay Parents

After the adoption is final, life goes on, but in a very new way, and all families need support from family members and friends. Some gay couples find that their parents—who may have been upset at one time about their children's sexuality—come around when grandchildren enter the picture. It's up to each family how you respond to this possible change. Many families also find support in playgroups, daycares, or other in-person activities.

Hopefully, you'll have lots of support in your inner circle, but numerous online resources ​are available for new gay and lesbian parents to help your recently-expanded family to grow and flourish.

A Word From Verywell

The exact number of gay couples who have adopted is unknown and is constantly changing. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 17% of same-gender couples had children, and a 2013 study by The Williams Institute found that 13 percent of LGBT families had adopted children, compared to 3 percent of heterosexual families.

Despite the fact that gay adoption grows more commonplace every day, the road ahead may be difficult and filled with obstacles, so make sure you're both on solid footing and sure about your decision before you start the adoption process.

Adopting a child is one of the biggest life changes you can make, so openly explore your feelings and expectations with your partner, employing the help of a counselor or therapist if necessary.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. HuffPost. Same-sex couples can now adopt children in all 50 states.

  2. National Center for Lesbian Rights. Adoption by LGBT parents.

  3. Cornell University. What does the scholarly research say about the well-being of children with gay or lesbian parents?.

  4. UCLA Williams Institute. United States Census snapshot 2010.

  5. UCLA Williams Institute. LGBT parenting in the United States.

By Carrie Craft
Carrie Craft been an educator in the field of adoption and foster care since 1996. She has a wealth of relevant personal and professional experience.