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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Recently in LBGTQ Category

Review of the new ABC Family show about a foster family

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This guest blog post was written by Courtney Knoll.

ABC Family recently started airing promos for their upcoming series, produced by Jennifer Lopez, "The Fosters," set to air in June. It was highlighted this on the website BuzzFeed. Featuring a "multi-ethnic family mix of foster and biological kids being raised by two moms," the show is already creating a stir of backlash. The trailer asserts, "It's not where you come from, it's where you belong," and highlights a few short moments that bring to light some tension within fostering, such as developing trust amongst foster parents/siblings and the desire to reconnect with biological parents.

It appears the show will wrestle with the definitions of family and what constitutes family, a topic crucial in supporting foster youth with identity and a sense of belonging. "The Fosters" are not only unique because of the blended nature of the family, but also because the parents are two lesbian women, bringing to light that LGBT folks are equally equipped to parent and parent well. (See the 3/5/13 posting of this blog).

The primary voice in opposition to the show is a group that calls themselves "One Million Moms," who are a group of Christian women trying to protect their children from the influences of media. In the case of "The Fosters," they claim
"While foster care and adoption is a wonderful thing and the Bible does teach us to help orphans, this program is attempting to redefine marriage and family by having two moms raise these children together" (see full statement here).

Defining family is proving an ever increasing topic in the modern day, but is especially pertinent to youth in the foster care system where the people they consider to be "family" might not conform to everyday norms and typical definitions. As we continue to wrestle with gay marriage, it is becoming clear that adoption by same-sex couples is an intertwined conversation, since adoption can be one of the most feasible ways for LGBT couples to build their families. For youth in care, it maybe be potentially healing or affirming to see more atypical families glorified in the media. However, the risk of the show is the potential that it could perpetuate stereotypes of foster youth and also, of LGBT families. Several comments on Jennifer's website as well as on the show's Facebook Page, One particular post stood out on JLO's website of a former foster youth who hopes the show will show the diversity of foster youth. She said,

"I myself was a foster kid and hate how tv shows portray us foster kids to be, not all the kids are bad and shoot careworkers and the system is not as nice as they pretend to be..."

We will have to wait until June to find out how JLO and the show's writers will present family and foster youth. Hopefully, the power of the media will bring a positive, accurate light to foster care and adoption!

Here's a sneak peek at the trailer!

Report on children adopted by gay and lesbian couples

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A new report by the British Association of Adoption and Fostering on children adopted by same-sex partners found that these children have same outcomes as children adopted by heterosexual parents.

"Gay, Lesbian and Heterosexual Adoptive Families: Family relationships, child adjustment and adopters' experiences" studied130 families, 40 2-parent lesbian mother-headed households, 41 2-parent gay father-headed household and 49 2-parent heterosexual couple-headed households. Factors compared across the three households included family relationships, adjustment and both parent and child well-being. Findings showed that families were more similar than different but that gay-headed fathers were less prone to depression, a finding that is welcomed considering that fewer fathers participate in research on adoptive families making the comparison group of fathers in this study an important aspect of this study.

Another interesting finding of the study was the analysis of different "pathways" to adoption among the couples. Perhaps not surprisingly gay fathers reported having the least expectation of becoming parents, while both lesbian mothers and heterosexual couples reported infertility being the reason for choosing to adopt. In addition, only one gay couple reported trying to have children biologically through a surrogate while many lesbian couples and heterosexual couples attempted IVF or other alternative reproductive technologies prior to adopting.

The study may be purchased through the BAAF site.

Woman denied right to adopt partner's child

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A same-sex couple in Alabama lost an appeal to allow the non-biological parent to adopt her partner's child last Friday.

The couple, who were married in California in 2008, currently lives in Alabama which does not recognize same-sex marriage and does not allow the adoption because, according to the court, the woman "is not the spouse of the child's mother."

The full story is available here.

Couples sue state for right to adopt partner's children

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FOX Carolina 21

The ACLU is assisting six families in North Carolina in filing a federal lawsuit against the state for discrimination. North Carolina currently prohibits a partner from adopting his or her partner's biological or adopted child. This law affects both same-sex and unmarried heterosexual couples.

Until 2010, North Carolina recognized second parent adoptions. In 2010 the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the state could prohibit second parent adoptions for both heterosexual and LGBT families. Some states prohibit adoption only by same-sex couples while other states ban a partner in an unmarried, or cohabiting, relationship.

The ban against allowing second parent adoptions puts familes at risk, according to the Center for American Progress. For example, if a child is hospitalized, a parent that is not the biological or adoptive parent cannot visit his or her child or make decisions about his or her care.

The harm to children, according to the Center for American Progress report, All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequities Hurt LGBT Families, also includes:

  • Risk to children's health and well-being, by restricting access to health insurance and the abovementioned inability for parents to make full medical decisions and visit their children in the hospital;
  • Risk of not being able to have joint custody with both parents should the parents' relationship dissolve;
  • Risk of child welfare involvement if the legal parent dies or becomes disabled;
  • Possible denial of disability and survivor benefits if the non-legal parent dies; and
  • Possible denial of inheritance from the non-legal parent.

See our blog post in Child Welfare Policy for more details related to policy on this topic.

For a copy of the full report, click here.

Weekly news round-up

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Each Friday on the Stability, Permanency and Adoption blog we will provide a selection of news from the past week that you may have missed.

Today's news round up:

A new research center in Michigan will address the needs of grandparents raising grandchildren. The National Research Center for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren is the result of a collaboration between Western Michigan University and Georgia State University. According to Linda Dannison, Chair of Western Michigan University's Family and consumer Sciences, "Having a center devoted to better understanding and influencing policy and practices in order to facilitate people's awareness will have a more positive impact on the lives of children." For more information on the center, click here or visit the center's website here.

The boy removed from his mother's care due to his obesity is being placed in relative care. The Washington Post reports that the 9-year old will be placed in his uncle's care. According to the Post article, "The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio joined the case on the boy's behalf and said he should be with his family. 'We think it's a fundamental liberty for a child to be brought up in his home among family and friends,' said the ACLU's James Hardiman." Read the story here.

The Child Welfare League of America and Lambda Legal released a practice guide for state and local child welfare agencies working with LGBTQ youth in child welfare settings. According to the article, ACYF commissioner Bryan Samuels is quoted, "These guidelines provide practical examples of practices that every child welfare agency can use to better meet the needs of the LGBTQ youth in their care." For the article, click here.

The Washington Post reported that the Virgina Board of Social Services has ruled that state-licensed adoption agencies can discriminate against LGBTQ prospective adoptive parents based solely on their sexual orientation. Read the full story here.

According to the Associated Press, the Bureau of Indian Affairs will hold a summit in South Dakota to address concerns that the state is not in compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act. The state claims the NPR report which reported the great disparities in a three-part series this past fall is inaccurate. You can read the full article here.

In New Jersey, Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D) has introduced a bill requiring adoptive parents to raise their adopted child in the faith or religion of their biological parents. From the New Jersey Jewish Standard, Marc Stern, Associate General Counsel for the American Jewish Committee stated, "It is traumatic enough to pull kids out of a home, and if you have kids who are Sabbath-observant and eat kosher food, and you put them in with the family who is up next on the DYFS list, you are adding to the trauma," he said. The bill has received some support from Jewish, Muslim, Protestant and Catholic communities.
You can read the entire article here.