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As Florida Couple Finalizes Adoption, CWLA Encourages More States to Remove Obstacles to Gay Adoption

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Shawn Flaherty

WASHINGTON, DC - The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), the nation's oldest and largest membership-based child welfare organization, commended Florida for overturning a three-decade old ban on gay adoptions, enabling Martin Gill and his partner to finally adopt two brothers from the foster care system last week. Now it wants other "hold out" states to follow suit.

"This nation has hundreds of thousands of children in the foster care system. It is morally wrong to deny them an opportunity to have a loving family and stable home. These children who've endured so much yearn for a normal childhood with parents who care about them...and can care for them. Good parenting is not defined by one's sexual orientation," explained Christine James-Brown. "Now, we hope other states will broaden their views of who can parent. Too many children are waiting."

Gill and his partner have been foster parents for more than six years to two boys. Their desire to adopt the children was blocked by a Florida law that did not allow adoption by gays. After a protracted legal battle ensued--led by the ACLU in which CWLA provided supporting opinions and data, Florida courts declared the ban unconstitutional, enabling Gill and his partner to finalize the adoption. Despite this legal victory, Florida's Governor Scott has publicly stated his opposition to gay adoption and said that he will enforce the law--even though it's unconstitutional.

The U.S. has 424,000 children in foster care predominantly related to abuse and neglect. Approximately 130,000 of these children are legally available for adoption. To ensure that more children find permanent, stable, and caring homes, child welfare has worked to be more inclusive in how families are defined. This has contributed to more diverse families choosing to build or expand through adoption, including a growing number of families of color, older individuals and families with children, two-parent working families, single parents (both male and female), gay and lesbian couples, families with modest incomes, individuals with physical disabilities, and families from all education levels, all religious persuasions, and all parts of the country.

Florida was the only remaining state that completely banned gay adoptions. However several other states employ restrictions that prevent adoptions by gays and lesbians, including Utah, Mississippi, Michigan, North Dakota, Arkansas and Louisiana. To overcome these barriers and increase adoptions, CWLA calls for states to adopt the recommendations it shares with its partner organization--the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute:
  • Evaluations for foster and adoptive parents should be based on parenting ability and not sexual orientation.
  • An end to laws that prevent gays and lesbians from fostering and adopting as a means to increase the number of families that may be an appropriate match for waiting children.
  • States should acknowledge both parents in a same-sex relationship, enabling children to receive rights and benefits from having two legal parents.
  • All states should recognize adoptions issued by other states.
Last winter, CWLA's Children's Voice Magazine explored adoption and the GLBT community in depth, including providing more insight into the Gill case.

About CWLA CWLA is a powerful coalition of hundreds of private and public agencies serving vulnerable children and families since 1920. Through its programs, publications, conferences, professional development, and consultation, CWLA speaks with authority and candor about the status and the needs of American children, young people, and families. As the nationally recognized standard-setter for child welfare services, CWLA provides direct support to agencies that serve children and families, improving the quality of the services they provide to more than nine million children every year.

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