California Adoption Law Attorneys for the LGBT Community
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Los Angeles Adoption Attorneys
About California Adoption Laws
Adoption is the act of legally creating a family relationship between a parent or parents and a child that is not biologically related. Adoption laws are different from state to state, and there are different types of adoption. Adoption can occur between the prospective parents and an adoption agency or it may be a private individual giving up a child for adoption. Once an adoption is complete, the biological parents of the child no longer have any type of legal relationship with him or her. Many couples and even singles wish to have children and either cannot conceive their own children or choose not to for a variety of reasons. Gay couples may wish to create a family and choose adoption as the means to do so. Whatever your reason for wanting to adopt, there are attorneys in our legal network that can assist you in achieving your goal of adopting a child. The goal of most adoption agencies and foster agencies is to place a child in the right environment for the child, one which will enable the child to grow in a loving environment that will work for both the child and parents. The United States has thousands of children that are either in foster care or awaiting adoption and there is no reason you and your partner cannot be the ones to adopt them. Although traditionally only married couples were able to adopt a child, times have changed considerably and many other couples in relationships can now freely and legally adopt. California especially has fairly progressive laws when it comes to allowing same-sex partners to adopt, married or not. Regardless of the legal issues, if you fit the “untraditional” role, you may expect to have a somewhat harder time in adopting than if you do have what is considered a “traditional” marriage with parents of both sexes. It is also important to be aware of the complexities of adoption laws in other states and countries before proceeding. Some states and countries ban same-sex couples from adopting outright, and other restrictions may bring up issues that could cause complications for the adoptive parents and children down the road.
What are the 3 types of adoption in California?
1. Foster Care: This system places the children/minors into a group home, or private home with a state certified caregiver, “foster parents”. The group homes and caretakers must undergo regular evaluation by child welfare workers to maintain care for the child. Often, it is encouraged for the foster parents to adopt the child, after the court orders an adoption plan.
2. Adoption: This is the permanent process to assume care for a child. Adoption requires transferring all rights and responsibilities from the biological parents to the adoptive parents.
- In an open adoption, biological parents may have a degree of communication and interaction in the child’s life. In 2009, the U.S. allowed legally enforceable open adoption contract agreements to be included in the adoption process.
- In a closed adoption, there are seals protecting information to prevent disclosure of adoptive parents’ and biological parents. A closed adoption will allow for “non-identifying” information to be released – medical records of the child, and ethnic background.
Regardless of the type of adoption, both will undergo regular evaluations by child welfare workers and government officials.
3. Legal Guardianship: In simple terms, a legal guardian is a person who has the legal authority to care for the personal interests of another person and their property. A parent can designate a legal guardian in the case of death, but this must be approved by the court.
How do I adopt a child in California?
Parents choose to adopt their children domestically or internationally. A domestic adoption process can be either conducted independently or through a foster agency:
- Independent: Often arranged by a family law attorney, or an adoption agency, requires a birth mother to consent or choose the adoptive parents. Because 85% of adoptions are independent, the birth mother is often in control of choosing the adoptive parent. Therefore, it is recommended that you meet with the birth mother and-or make a good case for why you are the right choice for a parent. Getting an adoption lawyer is the smoothest way to approach these issues. For a better understanding of the “foster to adopt” process we reached out to Extraordinary Families, a foster care and adoption agency based in Los Angeles.
- Foster to Adopt: Foster family and County agencies find homes for children who have already entered the foster care system. These children range in age from 0-18. If the court determines the children are not able to return to their biological parents, a plan for adoption is made. There is a high percentage of older children, 5+ years, in need of adoptive parents. Although in the hands of the state, an adoptive attorney will help settle any questions or concerns about adopting through foster care.
In all three cases, there is an evaluation, follow up, and general checkups conducted by the state or child welfare workers to confirm that the child is in a suitable living situation. As a foster parent, your job is to ensure the child is taken care of regarding education, room, and board. During their stay in a foster care home, an agency overseeing the child’s case makes more immediate care decisions, such as educational and religious decisions. Unless another legal guardian or biological parents is given authority, the agency and child welfare workers have this designated role until the child is 18-21, or the child achieves permanency through adoption or legal guardianship. Adoptive parents have the authority to govern the adopted child’s life. They have an identical responsibility to birth parents. When parents adopt through foster care, they receive monetary assistance via adoption assistance programs and Medicaid. These benefits do not exist in a private, domestic, or international adoption. The following are general adoption legal terms:
ICPC: If your adoption takes place across the nation; you must remain within your state lines until the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children paperwork is finalized (two weeks at most).
Post Placement Visits: After adoption, a home study provider will visit you and your new family to ensure that everyone is adjusting well to the new situation.
Finalization Hearing: After the first two steps, a judge will review and declare the finalization of the adoption.
Legal Guardianship: Unlike adoption, a legal guardianship will remain overseen by the court until the child is of legal age. This includes a yearly status report made by the guardian to the court, as well as meeting with court investigators and social workers as deemed necessary by the court. A court can also impose any requirements for a child which might be in need.
Statistics Behind LGBT Family Adoption
According to a canonized essay by Gary J. Gates, LGBT Parenting in the United States, same-sex couples are “four times more likely than their different-sex counterparts to be raising an adopted child,” and “six times more likely than their different-sex counterparts to be raising foster children.” These numbers are rising each year as more and more same-sex couples are getting married. Over the years, the facts of children living with LGBT parents has risen tremendously. As the trend continues, that number will only increase, as same-sex adoption and parenting become more and more widely accepted. Today, more and more LGBT parents have taken action by retaining a family lawyer, and LGBT lawyers who are both knowledgeable and passionate about breaking down the barriers restricting adoption for LGBT couples.
LGBT Cultural Competency Laws
In 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring foster parents and other caregivers to undergo training in “cultural competency and sensitivity” regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. If all that is required is a single 60-minute session once a year, there is no in-depth curriculum, however, there is at least an attempt made to bring light to LGBT issues within the adoption process. Three other states, including Illinois, Nevada, and Utah, have enacted similar laws. These state laws or state agency regulations require current and prospective foster parents to get proper training about cultural understanding behind the LGBT youth and the legal requirements. These laws and regulations are designed to improve the safety and outcomes for LGBT youth in the child welfare system. The District of Columbia along with 46 other states, do not require LGBT cultural competency training.
Disproportionately High Percentage of LGBT Youth
According to a UCLA study conducted in 2014, More than 400,000 children in America are in foster care, and among them, there’s a disproportionate number of LGBT kids. In Los Angeles County, about 1 in 5, or 1,400 foster youth, identify as LGBT. Los Angeles County is home to the nation’s largest population of foster youth. Because many foster parents are not given the correct training to understand the LGBT community, they might not be completely at fault when it comes to mishandling the child’s sexual identity. These disagreements and misunderstandings between parent and child lead to stress, conflict, and distrust. A child who has already been through the foster care system might be out of hope or enthusiasm for adoptive parents who are not fully accepting of their child’s sexual orientation. 40% of LGBT youth are homeless. Family rejection and abuse are a huge factor contributing to LGBT youth homelessness. “America’s next generation of gay and transgender youth need us to stand with them so that they can stand on their own”, Gregory Lewis, executive director of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Fund, words the challenges of LGBT youth poetically. He goes on to say, “in order for this to happen we all need to join together and support the hardworking and dedicated service providers helping these young people every day, we need to redouble our efforts to support them so they can help all of the youth in need”. Support comes in many forms, but the lack of funding for homeless youth providers is beginning to negatively impact the possibility of improvement. On top of everything these kids are facing, they also deal with blame; feeling as though being LGBT is wrong, and that somehow they deserve to be abused as a result. Leaving home sometimes seems like a shot for freedom for these kids, but their lives are instantly in danger once they lose the safety of a home. Christopher Rodriguez, a Florida resident, ran away from home when he was 17, fearing his father’s response to his sexuality. He felt that this escape was his only way to grasp freedom until he realized, “The only thing you’re thinking about is what am I going to do now? Because I have no roof to sleep under. I was in fear for my life”. Although many children leave home on their own, like Rodriguez, all over the country, families are asking children to leave-taking away the option to return home. However, even the programs set up to help these children can sometimes be the cause of abuse. Creating a safe place for youth, regardless of sexual orientation, should be the top priority when it comes to government-provided programs. Creating awareness and being honest with ourselves as a nation about the problems of the growing rate of LGBT youth is key in developing programs and gaining funding.
Children of LGBT Parents
In 2004, the American Psychological Association stated that “the development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.” The arguments should have halted here, with more scientific and psychological data to back up their claim. The claims made by the opposition are that the children of LGBT parents will potentially experience more difficulty in their own sexual identity than those with heterosexual parents. Even though, the opposite is true; children who come from same-sex parents have a harder time connecting with or understanding same-sex relationships, therefore might have more difficulty understanding their own sexual orientation if they feel at all different from their parents. Another claim against LGBT individuals becoming adoptive parents is that the child will undergo a form of marginalization or bullying due to their new parent’s sexual orientation. However, it should be noted that this claim equates LGBT to a form of social disability or handicap, which is an absurd idea considering there are over six million American’s with LGBT parents. For more information, we reached out to FamilyTime Centers, a neurotherapy and psychotherapy center based in Los Angeles. On LGBT Counseling: LGBT counseling is so important when considering the “normal” stress you deal with every day is heightened by the stress of being a marginalized group who deals with societal backlash. We believe in alternative therapy for mental health, not medication, you do not need to medicate LGBT individuals, because it is not a mental illness or a burden. However, the prejudice and discrimination LGBT members face on a daily basis are enough to cause mental health concerns. There has never been proof of any kind to back up the prejudice claims of social scientists attempting to push back the LGBT community. In fact, research has shown that children with LGBT parents develop similar to those with heterosexual parents. Some studies may be more inconclusive and underdeveloped because it has only been about two years since the official legalization of gay marriage throughout the united states. Nonetheless, all the social science up to date is showing positive and healthy results for children adopted into LGBT families, if anything the results are sexual orientation has no change on the upbringing of a child. A subsequent policy statement was made by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry in 2009. “All decisions relating to custody and parental rights should rest on the interest of the child. There is no evidence to suggest or support that parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender are per se superior or inferior from or deficient in parenting skills, child-centered concerns, and parent-child attachments when compared with heterosexual parents. There is no credible evidence that shows that a parent’s sexual orientation or gender identity will adversely affect the development of the child.”
LGBT Parents Nurture Tolerance
Tolerance for others often comes from individuals who have the ability to sympathize and empathize with others. It would not be a stretch to say that, Americans who have experienced some sort of pain, are thus able to identify with the pain of others. This theory has gained much popularity in the social sciences, as more and more psychiatrists are finding that children raised by LGBT parents are taught to be more open-minded, and empathetic towards other humans and animals. Abbie Goldberg, a clinical psychologist at Clark University in Massachusetts, published a study on gay and lesbian parents in 2007. She found that 28 out of 46 adults who had LGBT parents felt more empathy than adults who were raised in opposite-sex households. Goldberg went on to say, “These individuals feel like their perspectives on family, on gender, on sexuality have largely been enhanced by growing up with gay parents.” LGBT parents leave their children feeling slightly more nurtured to handle discrimination, having been opened up to change from the start.
Cooperation Matters More Than Sexual Orientation
This year, Rachel H. Farr, a Gender and Women’s Studies, and Psychology professor at the University of Kentucky focused on LGBT adoption in her essay, Does Parental Sexual Orientation Matter? Farr contends that “children’s healthy development depends upon healthy family functioning more so than family structure.” The essay goes on to conclude that “children’s behavioral problems and family functioning during middle childhood were predicted by earlier child adjustment issues and parenting stress” again, not their sexual orientation. Cooperation matters more than sexual orientation! In Los Angeles, we have the privilege of living in a fast-paced and open-minded city which values creativity over sexual orientation. Being part of a marginalized group can sometimes make people feel alienated, however, it builds a community. Having this community is so valuable during times of need, confusion, and therapy. Every single lawyer working with Pride Legal is either a member of the LGBT community or closely works within in. Do not overlook the value of this connection with considering adoption as an LGBT parent because you need someone who understands the difficulty of following rigid laws, by your side.
The future of LGBT Family Law
In truth, we need these types of longitudinal studies that trace a child’s upbringing because the laws regarding LGBT families have all changed in the last two years. Previous research is now outdated since its legal precedents differ. Therefore, new research is necessary to change the way we react and approach LGBT families, and adoption. New studies on LGBT adoption needs to include the voices of the children, their feelings and their opinions on how they are and were raised. The parents are important, but if the prejudice claims made are that LGBT parents are unfit to raise children then, the children are the ones who can prove this wrong. For further information, download the FREE Pride Legal LGBT Adoption e-book here.
Gay and Lesbian Adoption Lawyers in Los Angeles and Throughout California
The challenges for anyone wanting to adopt a child are best dealt with through an experienced and knowledgeable Los Angeles gay adoption attorney. There are many legal issues to be addressed, especially if attempting to adopt a child from an individual. To protect your interests and that of the child into the future, having a skilled attorney reviewing all of the details and ensuring there are no loose ends will provide peace of mind for both the biological parents and the adopting parents. Pride Legal specializes in providing skilled and experienced representation to the special needs of the gay community as well as the community at large. Our network of member attorneys provide services in and around Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County and throughout Southern California and the rest of the state. Contact a Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Adoption Lawyer at Pride Legal today!
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