How to adopt? One agency has answers

How to adopt? One agency has answers

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The National Adoption Center hosted a panel discussion to educate LGBTQ couples and single people about domestic-adoption agencies, private adoption and the foster-care system.

A group of gay and lesbian adoptive parents — along with a social worker from a local adoption agency — participated in the “Adoption Journey: An LGBTQ Perspective” panel on National Coming Out Day at the Wells Fargo History Museum. The discussion was one of several free events hosted by the National Adoption Center aimed at encouraging more people to adopt children in need of permanent-home placement.

The Adoption Center is a Philadelphia-based agency that has placed more than 24,000 children with families since its creation in 1972. It was the first to create a website that featured pictures and descriptions of children waiting to be adopted. The agency receives child referrals from the city’s Department of Human Services, the Child Protection and Permanency agency within New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families and from Delaware’s Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families.

The NAC is a nonprofit funded through sponsorships from companies such as Comcast NBCUniversal, PECO, Exelon, Dr. Pepper, Wawa and Wells Fargo. The agency also receives funding through donations. The agency has a partnership with NBC10, where waiting children are featured on the channel every week during the segment “Wednesday’s Child.”

The Oct. 11 panel was held in partnership with the Wells Fargo Foundation, which funds The Adoption Center’s LGBT program. The initiative encourages members of the community to consider adoption and connects prospective parents with other LGBTQ-affirming adoption agencies. Gloria Hochman, director of communications at the NAC, said the LGBTQ community is a “rich resource for children that [need] to be adopted.”

“When we started, most agencies had biases and prejudices against LGBT people and they weren’t keen on placing children with someone who wasn’t a heterosexual married couple, but we believed differently,” Hochman said. “We’ve reached out to the community to let them know that they are welcomed to adopt.”

During the discussion, parents shared their adoption journeys and the different ways to go about the process. Panelists discussed the list of children across the state waiting for placement, qualifications for prospective parents (depending on the agency) and the costs associated with different adoption methods.

David Blum, an attorney, shared his and his partner’s experience with private adoption when they adopted their two children. Blum noted how much the perspective on LGBTQ adoption has changed since he went through the process 20 years ago.

“The culture and society have made a lot of progress in a lot of respects. Adoption is much more of a reality for LGBT people, and it’s much easier now. I was a great curiosity 20 years ago and I think that’s less the case now.”

Nicole Molinari, another panelist, discussed the process of adopting children through the foster-care system. Molinari became a foster parent at 26. She adopted her first child eight years ago after her son was placed with her as a newborn. She is now on her way to adopting her sixth child — a 4-month-old who was placed in her care days after he was born.

“I feel like there’s a stigma with foster care in the gay community, and they don’t know that it’s readily available for anyone looking to expand their family,” Molinari said. “These kids need good homes and there’s nothing wrong with the way we live. I want to get the word out to as many people as possible about how positive it can be to take the foster-to-adopt route.”

Michael Washington was one of the prospective parents who sat in on the discussion. He said he was inspired to consider adoption after hearing Molinari’s story of being a single mom to four adopted children, adding he was “appreciative to hear that it’s not impossible to be a single man and an adoptive parent.” 

“There are going to be challenges, but the rewards are bigger than those challenges,” Washington said.

Lindsay Merril, a social worker with Adoptions From the Heart, an open-adoption agency that primarily places babies with parents looking to adopt. Merril noted the importance of a prospective parent’s “level of openness” and how that can impact the wait time for being placed with a child.

“Some levels of openness includes if a prospective parent is open to visits from biological parents, their ability to assist with medical and living expenses, openness to a child’s race and ethnicity or if there’s been prenatal drug and alcohol exposure,” she said. “The more open a person is to these things, the more their profile is shown to expectant parents and placement might happen a lot sooner.”

Merril added that although her agency is open to all families and individuals, she has yet to work with single men and transgender people. Similarly, Hochman said she has yet to have any prospective parents who identify as trans.

“Transgender people have become more visible more recently, but we have not had anyone who identifies as trans come to the adoption center wanting to adopt,” Hochman said.  “I think that’s a wave to come and it will be here soon. I hope agencies begin to think about that and how they’ll handle it moving forward.”

Chris Pope, president of the Wells Fargo PRIDE Team Member Network for Pennsylvania and Delaware, who is also the board president of Mazzoni Center, said there’s a “juxtaposition of not just gay and lesbian parents anymore. We have to consider that there are people of the trans experience who are parents too.” 

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