Approved but forever waiting


Siobhan Rowe
Focus on Adoption magazine

BC social workers report that same-sex couples are being approved for adoption in equal proportion to heterosexual applicants, but are not being matched to children in the same numbers.

A University of British Columbia (UBC) study on barriers to adoption in BC reveals some extra challenges that gay, lesbian, and single parent applicants may face when trying to adopt a child from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD).

  • BC was the first Canadian jurisdiction to explicitly allow adoption by same-sex couples and single people.
  • Between March 31, 2006, and March 31, 2009, 837 MCFD adoptions were completed. Of these, 81% of the adoptive parents were mixed-sex couples; 2.6% were same female couples; .9% male couples; 14.3% were single females, and 1% were single males. The MCFD does not collect data on the sexual orientation of single applicants.
  • In 2006, The Canadian Psychological Association made the following statement: “The psychological literature into the psychosocial adjustment and functioning of children fails to demonstrate any significant differences between children raised within families with heterosexual parents and those raised within families with gay and lesbian parents. CPA further asserts that children stand to benefit from the well-being that results when their parents’ relationship is recognized and supported by society’s institutions.”

Though the study authors caution that the results from interviews with five applicants to adopt and five social workers are not statistically representative, or broadly generalizable, they do offer a flavour of the experience of gay, lesbian and single parent applicants to adopt.

According to the findings, all the social worker participants introduced and spoke at length about the concept of bias against single and gay and lesbian applicants. Though they all knew such applicants that had adopted, all felt that there was widespread discrimination against them as a group. The study also notes that, “Despite the fact that this issue was reported as well acknowledged throughout the Ministry, all social worker participants reported limited success in changing it.”

The study authors suggest that it doesn’t seem reasonable to accept that social workers in general are biased against single, gay and lesbian applicants. Rather, in planning for children, they may project biases they know or believe to exist in the general population or within particular birth families. The likelihood of openness between birth and adoptive families may influence such decisions. It is also suggested that social workers may make presumptions about who has the right family structure and experience to meet the needs of children with special needs—these presumptions may lead them to stick with the more traditional family types even though some children, e.g., a young girl with a history of sexual abuse, may benefit greatly from living with two maternal figures and no men.

Given these findings, and considering the limited nature of the study, it is clear that there is an urgent need for more research into barriers to gay and lesbian adoptions. This could be considered especially crucial given that we know that there is considerable interest on the part of these communities in adoption.

Source: The Politics and Ethics of Same-Sex Adoption. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, Volume 5 Issue 3 2009.