When I went to press with THE STORK MARKET in 2007, the topic was just becoming an issue and my thoughts were not yet fully formed. I am an extremely liberal progressive and fully and totally support marriage equality. But adoption as a gay rights issue was another question altogether that required more time to formulate my conflicted feelings and form an opinion. I thus, then - and since - have avoided the subject not wanting to become embroiled in adding to the furor of adoption becoming another platform for gay rights for two reasons:
1. Adoption is not a "right"
2. Adoption should always put the needs of children above those of any of the adults
No one has a "right" to adopt. Furthermore, although they get lumped together in the media and the minds of the public, all adoptions are not equal. State adoptions of children in foster care are mandated by state law while private adoptions - domestic and international - are held to very different standards and looser regulations, based primarily on who can afford to pay the tens of thousands of dollars they cost. Religious institutions and private adoption facilitators are not bound by the same anti-discrimination laws that state agencies are.
As far as discrimination, we need to step back and recognize that the entire concept of adoption is based on subjective prejudices that age, marital status and finances determine who is more "fit" to parent. We live in a society that makes these judgments all the time. We judge some people as too young or too old to be good parents before they ever even try. This has always been the case.
Private and religious adoption agencies always made their own selection criteria. In the 1940's - 1970's, for instance, prospective adopters had to be a married man and woman of the a particular religion and had to prove infertility - as if that made one a better parent! Jewish agencies looked for Jewish parents for children and Catholic agencies selected catholic families. Why is that wrong if it is the wishes of the mother? They also tried to match prospective parents eye and hair color to the child so they could more easily pass the child off as their own. Age was always a factor for adopters as were requirements such as having sufficient room in the home for each child. Today the weight of those applying to adopt has become, at times, an issue as obesity is a health issue.
Today mothers considering adoption are more involved and make their own selections from a pool. Surely they are allowed the right to their own person preference, even if that includes ruling out single applicants or same sex couples if it is not what they want for their child. Bottom line is that there is no right to adopt. Adoption is a privilege, not a right and selections are made, some based on wisdom and some simply on personal preference. And, it is always based on the MYTH that adoption provides a "better" life when in fact it only guarantees a different life. It's all a crap shoot! Background checks are sorely lacking any teeth and in private independent adoptions the adopters pay for their own home studies which are drive-by rubber stamps.
While governmental agencies are bound by anti-discrimination laws, we should be screaming far louder for the rights of children to be protected than worrying about some people being excluded by SOME agencies! Adoption needs to be a last resort after all efforts at Family Preservation have been tried and failed. It then needs to be child-centered and decisions need to be made as to what is best for each child, not those desiring to obtain a child.
In most cases -- most especially with children coming out of state care -- permanent legal guardianship with visitation is what is best and the parents who are able to accept that are the ones best suited. Many children placed from foster care have developed relationships - good or bad - with their parents, siblings or other kin that needs to be respected and continued. Criteria should thus put a high value on applicants who fully understand and accept that they will be caring for a child who comes with a pre-existing family and history and are ready to honor, protect and maintain that. They also need to be people who understand that adopted children - of any age - come with emotional baggage including feelings of loss, grief, rejection and abandonment. They need to be prepared to meet these needs realistically, be able to deal with acting-out and learning difficulties, and not be seeking a child to love them.
These are the criteria all adoption agencies should be screening for, not external factors.