I have a ‘forever family’. It consists of a mom, and dad, and me – their adopted daughter. I grew up in a permanent ‘forever home’ with a loving, supportive family in much the same way other children do with their biological parents.
And with all this love and support I was able to grow into a healthy child who played basketball, roller-bladed, and begged to quit ballet shortly after my very first lesson (you just can’t do a lay-up in a tutu). With the backing of a dedicated support system I was granted every opportunity to flourish into what I consider to be a (relatively) successful adult.
My parents and I don’t share blood, medical histories, or DNA but instead share a bond much deeper than any non-adopted family could possibly begin to understand. And for that, the privilege that was granted, I’m incredibly lucky, as are many of the 1.5 million Americans who have been adopted into what I hope are similarly loving ‘forever homes’.
But often times I sit back and think about what my life would have been like if my ‘forever family’ hadn’t found me. Who would I have become? Would I have had the chance to go to university? Would I have had the security of knowing that, just a phone call away, I would have a family member who would be willing to help me fight any battle? Would I even get a birthday card? Or would I have been just another child caught without a sense of permanency, caught within a flawed social system?
Thankfully I wasn’t. And while I’m grateful to all those who had a part in granting me my present-day reality it is tragically not the norm.
Worldwide, adoption is still very rare; the United Nations estimates that 260,000 adoptions occur each year, which equates to fewer than 12 adoptions out of every 100,000 children under the age of 18. What this results in is 13 million double orphans (children who have lost both parents) in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean who lack ‘forever families’.
Let me put this into perspective. In Africa alone, it is estimated that the current rate of domestic adoption would need to be multiplied by 2000 in order to guarantee the approximate 8 million African orphans are adopted into permanent homes. Globally, the number of adoptions of AIDS-related orphans would need to be increased by a factor of 60.
Another 119 million children are single orphans (children who have lost one parent) and may also require adoption into permanent homes.
Within the United States, more than 250,000 children are forced into the foster system each and every year. Approximately half of these children will return to family members, leaving approximately 105,000 children stuck in limbo: with luck finding their ‘forever families’, or, like the nearly 20,000 children in the US, aging out of the foster system, without one. In Canada the situation is not much better: over 78,000 children are still waiting for permanent homes.
This isn’t the first time I’ve spoken about my adoption, the need for increased awareness about adoption, or the importance of viewing adoption as pro-choice. But over the past two months we have been witness to a new intensification of the adoption debate. Or at least, in my opinion it has. It’s time to talk about it.
We have a new Pope. For us non-Catholics this doesn’t exactly change anything; I doubt any of us, particularly in the feminist world, anticipated a newfound acceptance of our ‘liberal values’ – a modernization of old conservative, misogynist worldviews. But what Pope Francis brings is a particular dislike for same-sex marriage, which he declared a “destructive attack on God’s plan” although coming from a country which has openly accepted same-sex marriage since 2010 (a year, in fact, before New York did). But perhaps even more appalling, Pope Francis has a particular hatred for same-sex adoption.
Not that the Vatican has even really been a fan of same-sex adoption either. In fact, just weeks before the election of Pope Francis, the Vatican once again voiced its distaste for same-sex adoption, believing that children should grow up in “the ordinary way…with a father and mother”.
According to Pope Francis, same-sex adoption is not wrong simply because it’s not ‘ordinary’; to him, the adoption of children by same-sex couples is a “form of discrimination against children”.
But what’s obvious to me is the Pope’s misunderstanding of the term discrimination. Perhaps if he had a more formal understanding of what it means to be discriminated against he would view this situation a little differently, a little less harshly…or simply with a little more compassion.
So let me provide a definition:
Discrimination, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex”.
So, the academic in me could say that we could perhaps validate the Pope’s ‘discriminatory’ view of same-sex adopted children if there was evidence to suggest that children adopted by same-sex couples were at risk. Lacking. Limited. Affected negatively in any way by the sexual orientation of their parents.
But here’s the problem: there is none. Empirical evidence supporting the Pope’s ‘discriminatory’ standpoint just doesn’t exist. Thirty years of extensive research finds nothing to suggest that children of same-sex parents are any less likely to thrive. Excel. Be loved in the exact say same that I did with heterosexual parents.
- In fact, on March 20th the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement regarding their opinion of same-sex parenting based on previous experimental evidence. In their view, it is “in the best interest of children that they be able to partake in the security of permanent nurturing and care that comes with the civil marriage of parents, without regard to their parents’ gender or sexual orientation”.
- The American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and other professional healthcare organizations all agree that “same-sex couples are no less fit than heterosexual parents to raise children and their children are no less psychologically healthy and well-adjusted than children of heterosexual parents” . They insist, to believe otherwise is, “inconsistent with the scientific evidence”.
So, who is really being ‘discriminated’ by discouraging adoptions by same-sex couples? The LGBT couples who wish to offer ‘forever homes’ to deserving children, and the deserving children wanting to find ‘forever families’.
Because what those against same-sex adoption and, by virtue same-sex marriage, are essentially suggesting is that children like me – children who have, by no fault of their own, and for reasons mostly unknown to them, been placed for adoption are not deserving of a loving family.
It is better, says those who believe in the ‘abomination’ of same-sex adoption, that millions of children around the world grow up without ‘forever families’ than to live with a loving couple, who by no fault of their own, just happen to be of the same sex.
People who don’t support same-sex marriage, or the adoption of children by same-sex couples, are in essence denying both deserving children and deserving couples the right to a ‘forever family’. I can find nothing Christian about that, nothing moral about it, and nothing just. This, in my albeit very biased opinion, is the very essence of discrimination.
In the words of Ezra Klein, “adoption by gay couples is one of the best arguments for gay marriage”. Well said, because as far as I’m concerned I would much rather grow up with a ‘forever family’ that happens to have two moms, or two dads, than to live without one.