Adoption and Foster Care Overview

Discussion and debate about adoption and foster care by gay and lesbian parents occurs frequently among child welfare policymakers, social service agencies, and social workers. They all need better information about gay adoptive and foster parents and their children as they make individual and policy-level decisions about placement of children with gay parents. The following information on adoption and foster care is taken from the U.S. Census 2000, the National Survey of Family Growth (2002), and the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (2004).

Currently half a million children live in foster care in the United States and more than 100,000 foster children await adoption. States must recruit parents who are interested and able to foster and adopt children. Three states currently restrict gay and lesbian individuals or couples from adopting. Several states have or are considering policies that would restrict gay people from fostering.

Recent government surveys demonstrate that many lesbians and gay men are already raising children, and many more gay people would like to have children at some point. We estimate that two million gay people have considered adoption. Since prior research shows that less than one-fifth of adoption agencies attempt to recruit adoptive parents from the community, studies suggest that gay and lesbian people are an underutilized pool of potential adoptive parents.

Important Information:

  • More than one in three lesbians have given birth and one in six gay men have fathered or adopted a child.
  • More than half of gay men and 41 percent of lesbians want to have a child.
  • An estimated two million GLB people are interested in adopting.
  • An estimated 65,500 adopted children are living with a lesbian or gay parent.
  • More than 16,000 adopted children are living with lesbian and gay parents in California, the highest number among the states.
  • Gay and lesbian parents are raising four percent of all adopted children in the United States.
  • Same-sex couples raising adopted children are older, more educated, and have more economic resources than other adoptive parents.
  • Adopted children with same-sex parents are younger and more likely to be foreign born.
  • An estimated 14,100 foster children are living with lesbian or gay parents.
  • Gay and lesbian parents are raising three percent of foster children in the United States.
  • A national ban on gay foster care could cost from $87 to $130 million.
  • Costs to individual states could range from $100,000 to $27 million.

Source: Urban Institute