Will marriage increase the number of adoptions in NY?
July 13, 2011
In the wake of the victory for marriage in New York, adoption agencies are beginning to prepare for an anticipated adoption boom. It is expected same-sex couples will now be looking to take the next step in starting a family, bolstered by the new marriage law’s recent passage. Says Susan Watson, director of US adoptions at the Spence-Chapin adoption agency in New York, “I think they will feel more entitled to be a family under the new law.”
New York is the most populous state with the freedom to marry, and beginning Sunday, July 24th, same-sex couples across the state are expected to marry in droves. The state already permits unmarried couples to adopt, but marriage can certainly aid in a couple’s case during the competitive interview process. Taking this step can indicate to social workers that a couple has reached a milestone in their relationship and are serious about starting a family according to experts.
The results of the 2010 census will provide concrete data on the effect of marriage equality on adoption rates. But until then, it will be hard to tell whether it has had any effect. However, experts do know that, nationwide, the numbers are rising. In 2000, there were 10,700 couples with adopted children, but in 2009, there were 19,000.
One state that many see as a good proxy for this study is Massachusetts, the first state to end marriage discrimination in 2004. However, in 2009, the Census Bureau survey did not show an increase in adoption correlated with the freedom to marry. However, the sample was only done of 100 couples, and so is highly inconclusive. The Massachusetts Adoptions Resource Exchange, an organization that provides families with information on adoption, reports that it has seen a rise in the number of same-sex couple inquires. Vincent Russo, a spokesman for Connecticut’s court system, which granted equality in 2008, postulates that it could be a matter of feeling safe. "Once people were able to marry, they had a bit more security. Once that they have this feeling that, 'OK, now that we are a family unit and in this marriage' they feel a little more comfortable, a little more security about adopting children.”
Regardless of marriage, adopting is still a difficult and competitive process for couples gay and straight. Contending with complicated laws, birth mothers, sperm donors, and social workers can be a long process. For lesbian couples, a sperm donor and heavy legal documentation is needed. The new marriage statue renders second-parent adoption unnecessary but adoption lawyer, Nina Rumbold, still recommends it, given that other states may not yet recognize marriage. For men and woman who are unable or unwilling to have children, the process requires extensive searching and paperwork.
However, most couples agree that when the long journey is complete, the reward is more than worth it. And there is hope on the horizon. With the recent victory, the next step of adopting has become simpler, and with increased familiarity will continue to become easier. Freedom to Marry continues to work towards ending marriage discrimination for all citizens in hopes that it will equip couples with the tools they need to protect their families.