Broader international and theoretical perspectives

Ryan, S., and Whitlock, C. (2009) Becoming Parents: Lesbian Mothers’ Adoption Experience. in Social Work with Lesbian Parent Families: Ecological Perspectives L.R. Mercier and R.D. Harold (eds.) New York: Routledge. [USA]

Rimalower, L. and Caty, C. (2009) The mamas and the papas: the invisible diversity of families with same-sex parents in the United States, Sex Education 9(1): 17-32.

Abstract: This literature review is intended for administrators, educators, and counselors to generate discussion and awareness of the issues facing families with same-sex parents in the United States, a demographic that is rapidly growing and needing service and attention from its communities. To provide educators with background into how these families are formed, research exploring the emotional and legal dynamics of conception and adoption is included. In the context of school settings, disclosure of family structure to teachers and peers is discussed, with consideration for the effects of homophobia and heterosexism. Speaking to a highly contended issue, the literature indicates that children raised by same-sex parents are not disadvantaged compared with their peers raised in households headed by heterosexual parents. In fact, more than biological or legal status, research points to the quality of relationships with caregivers as the greatest predictor of outcomes in a child’s development. While the research has been confounded by bias and limited demographics, the needs of this population and the discrimination it experiences appear to be minimized by observers and the families themselves, a factor that may compromise existing research and requires further study. With the gay population progressively becoming more visible, a body of research is slowly emerging that includes children born to and raised by established same-sex couples. This review focuses primarily on research from the United States but the issues presented are increasingly relevant internationally. As these children and their parents join school communities, it is vital for administrators, educators, and counselors to create curricula with sensitivity to the issues facing this new generation of families, and to actively participate as collaborators in safety, respect, and understanding within the school environment and in connection with parents.

Stacey, J. (2006) Gay Parenthood and the Decline of Paternity as We Knew It, Sexualities, 9(1): 27-55.

Abstract: Most analyses of postmodern transformations of intimacy feature adult unions, often placing gays and lesbians on the frontier. The contemporary pursuit of parenthood evinces a similar shift from obligation to desire and from an economic to an emotional calculus. Here too, gay men and lesbians serve as pioneers, with planned gay male parenthood occupying particularly avant-garde terrain and Los Angeles County. This article analyzes gay male narratives of parental desire and decision-making drawn from ethnographic research on gay male intimacy and kinship in Los Angeles, the unlikely global epicenter of gay paternity. It identifies a ‘passion for parenthood’ continuum in which most men occupy an intermediate zone which leads them to situational paternity or childlessness contingent upon intimate relationships. Heterosexual ‘situations’ lead most straight men to paternity, while homosexual ‘situations’ lead a majority of gay men to childlessness. Yet the very success gay men achieve pursuing parenthood against enormous odds exposes conditions governing contemporary family life that represent the decline of paternity as we knew it. This does not augur the demise of male parenthood, however, but its creative, if controversial, reconfiguration.

Mallon, G. (2007) Assessing Lesbian and Gay prospective foster and adoptive families: A Focus on the Home Study process. Child Welfare, 86(2), 67-86

Abstract: The article offers guidelines for child welfare professionals for competent assessment with prospective foster or adoptive parents who identify as lesbian gay. Lesbians and gay men in the U.S. have created families in a wide variety of ways such as adoption, foster care and the establishment of kinship networks. Sexual orientation cannot be ignored in the assessment process, because a person’s sexuality is an aspect of who he or she is as a total person and will impact one’s life as a parent. The applicant’s ability to constructively manage homophobia or heterocentrism in his or her own life should be established early on in the assessment.

Matthews, J. D. and Cramer, E. P. (2006). Envisaging the adoption process to strengthen gay and lesbian headed families: Recommendations for adoption professionals. Child Welfare, 85(2): 317-340. [USA]

Abstract: Although a growing number of child placement agencies are serving lesbians and gay men, a dearth of literature exists for adoption agency policies and practices related to working with this population. This article explores the unique characteristics and strengths of prospective gay and lesbian adoptive parents throughout each of the three phases of the adoption process–preplacement, placement, and postplacement–as well as provides suggestions for adoption professionals working with gays and lesbians. Data from a recent qualitative study of single, gay adoptive fathers are used to illustrate examples and expose areas of potential strengths of adoptive parents not generally explored in the preplacement or preparatory stage. Special attention also is given to the continuing needs of adoptive families headed by gays and lesbians after adoptive placement. Specifically explored are the needs for developing linkages with similar families, as well as providing resources designed to promote successful outcomes of adopted children raised by gays and lesbians.

Downs, A. and James, S. (2006) Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Foster Parents: Strengths and Challenges for the Child Welfare System, Child Welfare 85(2): p281-298. [USA]

Abstract: Historically, a shortage of skilled and dedicated foster parents has existed in America. Lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LBG) foster parents have received little attention in the published literature. This article documents the challenges and successes of a group of 60 LGB foster parents. All participants provided foster parenting for public (state or county) agencies. The primary successes of this group included meaningful and gratifying parenting and successful testing of whether adoption might be a natural next step after foster parenting. The primary challenges included insensitive, inappropriate, and difficult social workers; state or local laws that worked against successful foster parenting by LGB adults; failure to recognize parents’ partners; and lack of support by the system to acknowledge the important role of LGB parents. Numerous recommendations are identified for improving how LGB foster parents are supported within child welfare systems including foster parent and social worker training in LGB issues

Kindle, P.A., and Erich, S. (2005) Perceptions of social support among heterosexual and homosexual adopters, Families in Society, 86(4), 541-546. [USA]

Leung, P., Erich, S., and Kanenberg, H. (2005) A comparison of family functioning in gay/lesbian, heterosexual and special needs adoptions, Children and Youth Services Review, 27(9), 1031-1044. [USA]

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to identify possible contributing factors to family functioning in three types of adoptive families: those headed by gays/lesbians, those headed by heterosexuals, and those involving the adoption of children with special needs. These three adoptive family types were examined concurrently so that commonalities and differences could be identified and considered for use in adoption practice. A multiple regression analysis was used to assess the relationship between the dependent variable (standardized family functioning score) and independent variables (child behavior scores, special needs adoption, gay/lesbian headed families, age at adoption and at interview, diagnoses of disabilities, total social support score, number of previous placements, previous abuse and co-sibling adoption). Results indicated no negative effects for the parenting of adopted children by gay/lesbian headed families. Higher levels of family functioning were found to be associated with special needs, younger, and non-disabled child adoptions. Gay/lesbian headed family adoptions of older children, non-sibling group adoptions, and children with more foster placements also experienced higher levels of family functioning. Implications include the need to (1) place a child in an adoptive family as early as possible, (2) ensure strong support networks for adoptive families of children with disabilities and with those who adopt sibling groups, and (3) encourage the practice of adoption by gay/lesbian headed families, especially for older children.

Weston, K. (2005) Families We Choose: Lesbians, Gays Kinship, New York: Columbia University Press.

Ryan, S. D., Pearlmutter, S. and Groza, V. (2004) Coming Out of the Closet: Opening Agencies to Gay and Lesbian Adoptive Parents, Social Work 49(1): 85-95. [USA]

Brooks, D. and Goldberg, S. (2001) Gay and Lesbian Adoptive and Foster Care Placements: Can They Meet the Needs of Waiting Children? Social Work 46(2): 147-156. [USA]

Abstract: Although the number of children in need of adoptive homes is growing, the number of prospective adoptive parents is decreasing. On the basis of an extensive review of relevant literature, the present study explored a potentially viable although controversial and little-researched option for increasing the pool of prospective parents: adoptions by gay men and lesbians. Data for this study were collected from child welfare workers and gay and lesbian adoptive and foster parents. A content analysis of the data suggests that gay men and lesbians experience considerable and seemingly unjustified obstacles in their efforts to become adoptive and foster parents. Major implications for practice and policy are offered, as are future directions for research.

New resources to suggest?