Help Us Adopt makes adoption easier for you
It’s never been easy for LGBTQ people to grow our families and too many states are making it harder. Fortunately, there’s one organization that wants to help us. Here’s everything you need to know about how Help Us Adopt can help you.
What you’ll find here:
- How Help Us Adopt got started
- LGBTQ adoption in America
- Unique LGBTQ concerns with adoption
- LGBTQ adoption process
- How to find an LGBTQ-friendly adoption or foster care agency
- 4 ways to prepare financially to adopt or grow your family
- LGBTQ adoption pros/cons
- Topics covered with Becky of Help Us Adopt
Hear from Becky Fawcett, founder of Help Us Adopt:
How Help Us Adopt got started
Help Us Adopt helps all couples and individuals get grants to pay for adoption costs and it is the only non-discriminatory adoption grant program in the United States. It serves all genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, marital status and races. International, foster care, and domestic adoptions are included and there’s no fee to apply.
In 2007, Becky and Kipp Fawcett founded the nonprofit HelpUsAdopt.org, a national 501(c)(3) adoption grant program, to simplify the adoption process for all families.
Becky and Kipp used the pain points they encountered in adopting their own children as a springboard to provide financial assistance for adoptions. And, it’s been doing just that!
According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2017, the organization’s grants assisted 38 families to adopt 41 children. To date, it has facilitated over 230 grants totaling $2,000,000 +.
The sizeable Help Us Adopt grant that’s available to all families
LGBTQ adoption in America
The goods news is that according to recent studies on same-sex adoptions, adoption by gay couples is increasing. Compared to heterosexual couples, same-sex couples are six times more likely to bring up foster children and four times more likely to raise adopted children. This could be because we know what it’s like not being accepted. Whether true or not, LGBTQ families are helping kids in need through adoption.
That’s why the work that Help Us Adopt does is so important.
LGBTQ adoption stats
You may be surprised to learn that millions of children in the United States live with at least one gay parent, and millions of LBGTQ people are interested in adoptions.
- According to LifeLongAdoptions.com, an estimated six to 14 million children nationally live with at least one gay parent.
LGBTQ people interested in US adoptions are estimated at two million.
- Four percent of all US adopted children are raised by lesbian and gay parents.
- An estimated 22,000 adopted children in the US are being raised by 16,000 + same-sex couples.
- In the US, same-sex parents are four times more likely than opposite-sex parents to raise an adopted child. With couples raising children under 18 years old in their homes, 3% of opposite-sex parents have an adopted child versus 13% of same-sex parents.
- California is home to the highest number of adopted children in the US – 16,000 +, living with gay and lesbian parents.
- The median age for adoptive parents is 44 for opposite-sex versus 42 for same-sex.
That’s not all. According to research from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, “One in five same-sex couples (21.4%) are raising adopted children compared to just 3% of different-sex couples, and 2.9% of same-sex couples have foster children compared to 0.4% of different-sex couples.”
This is why LGBTQ individuals and families who wish to adopt should be able to do so, and neither the government nor lack of money should deny them and these children happiness.
LGBTQ adoption laws
LGBTQ couples must deal with various and unique legal challenges in the adoption process.
FindLaw reports LGBTQ couples encounter unique legal challenges when adopting. For example, many states have special rules applying to lesbian and gay adoption, and even though a child is born into a same-sex partnership, the two parents may be subject to different rules, particularly if the couple is unmarried.
Many states have specific rules unique to lesbian and gay adoption. With all the changes that have come with marriage equality, many state constitutions have outdated language that often, unintentionally, add challenges to the adoption process for LGBTQ people.I know it sounds trite, but I’m really here to help you become a parent—or help someone you love become a parent. - Becky Fawcett of Help Us AdoptClick To Tweet
These are the unique LGBTQ concerns with adoption
1. Religious Freedom Laws
According to The Christian Science Monitor, religious freedom laws have made interstate and local placement agencies a battleground for religious freedom advocates and those championing LGBTQ equality.
Many Republican states have passed religious freedom laws allowing faith-based agencies to decline placing children with LGBTQ couples or those that don’t share their religious beliefs.
Fortunately, democratic states have enacted nondiscrimination rules for foster care and adoption agencies that receive government funding.
Religious freedom laws can be a hurdle in the adoption process for LGBTQ families. In many Republican states, religious freedom laws allow faith-centered agencies to deny placing children with same-sex couples.
In contrast, legislators in Democratic states have established nondiscrimination guidelines for foster care and adoption agencies receiving government funding.
2. The growing attacks by the Trump Administration and /Republicans
The Trump Administration has only added to our challenges, in late 2019, the Trump administration initiated a proposal that would permit faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to continue to receive taxpayer-supported funds even if LGBTQ families and others were excluded because of religious beliefs.
This is why LGBTQ families need all the resources we can get – thank you Help Us Adopt. It’s, also, why it’s so important (we know we’re speaking to the choir) to vote.
3. The increased costs to circumvent these laws
Adoption.org says private agency adoptions can cost between $12,000-$25,000, with the average program costing around $18,000. There are many ways to adopt a child and unique costs associated with each, including home study, as discussed below and legal fees. Also, depending on possible arrangements made with the birth mother, some or all of her medical expenses may be paid by you as the adoptive parent or parents.
|Types of Adoption||Lower Estimated Costs||Higher Estimated Costs|
|Foster care adoptions||$0||$2,500+|
|Licensed private agency adoptions ||$12,000||$25,000+|
|Independent adoptions ||$8,000||$34,000+|
Additional adoption costs for same-sex couples
A unique cost for many same-sex couples is the cost of second-parent adoptions. Many states won’t let two people of the same-sex petition to adopt the same child. So, one partner must petition for and adopt a child and then the other partner must file for a “second-parent adoption” of that same child.
A second-parent adoptions’ costs between $2,000 and $3,000, as attorney Elizabeth Schwartz shared on episode 29 of the Queer Money® podcast.
4. The growing number of states making it easier to deny LGBTQ adoptions
Another challenge with LGBTQ adoptions is the increasing number of states that are making it easier to deny adoptions via legislation protecting religion-based foster care and adoption agencies, restricting the organizations to work exclusively with families that adhere to their religious beliefs.
In the last three years, at least eight states, including Texas, Alabama, Michigan, and South Dakota have instituted such restrictions.
5. The hundreds of thousands of kids in foster care
Currently, the United States has over 400,000 children in the foster care system. According to the New York Times, over 114,000 are not eligible to go back to their families and are available for adoption.
These kids need loving homes. So, every LGBTQ person or family who wants to adopt should be able to adopt.
LGBTQ adoption process
Hear how one gay couple grew their queer family:
Our friends Christopher and Jonathan share their adoption process preparation including financial considerations for adoption and legal expenditures.
LGBTQ foster care
Another piece of good news is that the US foster care system is exceptionally welcoming to the LGBTQ community and supports any adult that can offer a supportive and loving family.
- Of the over 400,000 children in the US foster care system, 20,000 of them will “age out” without being adopted.
- Nearly 40% of those children are recognized as LGBTQ
On our Queer Money® podcast “Becoming a Parent through Foster Care Adoption,” with Jillian Johnsrud, Montana Money Adventures creator, and mother of six children of whom four were foster care adoptions, shares her insight on the LGBTQ foster care adoption process.
The podcast’s many topics include what it’s like to be a foster parent, expenses associated with foster care adoption, and how you can support foster kids without adopting.
Jillian also shares a resource list for LGBTQ foster parents.
Hear about Jillian’s real-life experience of a home study and more:
LGBTQ international adoptions
Of course, foster care and adoption aren’t the only way for LGBTQ people to grow our families. On this Queer Money® we talk with Adrian in Tel Aviv about his experiences in negotiating the international aspects of queer family planning.
The family planning journey of Adrian and his husband started with adoption, and five years later transitioned to surrogacy as the ideal solution.
How to find an LGBTQ-friendly adoption or foster care agency
Start local. A good place to start is by asking LGBTQ adoptive parents or centers in your area for their agency recommendations.
- To expand your search, click here to find an LGBTQ Community Center near you.
- Also, visit the Human Rights Campaign website for their “All Children – All Families” list of participating agencies. HRC’s website lists contact information for many LGBTQ inclusive adoption agencies in the United States.
The adoption home studies process
So, what’s a home study?
While they sound scary and many prospective parents stress about them, home studies are an important part of the adoption process for both the parents and the child. A home study is a requirement of all adoptions including domestic, international, foster or private care, older child or infant. It includes a life overview that details finances, personal relationships and criminal background checks.
The review is used to legally determine a stable family environment prior to placing a child in a home. Many of these children have come from challenging homes, so there’s extra sensitivity of putting them in an environment where they’ll thrive.
It’s recommended to begin the home study process immediately as it’s often required by adoption professionals before they even start the process of associating a family with a child or birth mother.
What does a home study include?
Home studies vary as do their requirements, and the assessment procedure for adoption always includes several steps and extensive documentation.
Home visits may include but are not limited to:
- Personal document submissions, such as marriage licenses and birth certificates
- Adoptive household members being interviewed by a home study professional
- Home visits completed by a social worker
- Character references being obtained
What are the steps of an adoption home study?
1. Locating an adoption home study provider
Typically a credentialed social worker from a child-placement agency or other social work professional conducts the home study. The home study provider can assist you with what expectations for the process.
Go to 1-800-homestudy to find home study providers by state.
Additional home study resources include:
2. Completing the home study application
Most often, the agency a family is working with provides the application and information packet. In order to complete the report, you’ll need various documents such as proof of income, tax returns and medical records. All this will be spelled out by your home study provider.
3. Meeting with a social worker for the home inspection and interviews
Following the application filing and documentation review, a social worker will do interviews and in-home visits.
The interviews help the social worker understand your reasons for adopting. The assessment will also investigate your readiness to adopt, including financial readiness, and overall personality and parenting approach.
Your living environment will also be checked to assure it’s child-safe.
4. Completing the home study report
A home study report will be completed by your social worker. The agency requires the report in order to achieve the “active family” designation for families whose profiles will be shared with prospective birth mothers.
Courts and state governments also require the report to confirm legal placement.
New Jersey expands LGBTQ adoption access with new legislation – no home study required
On Jan. 15th, 2020, as shared by the Hudson Reporter, Gov. Phil Murphy thankfully signed off on a new law that expands LGBTQ adoption access.
Prospective LGBTQ parents can now, fortunately, circumvent the long and costly adoption process. The new law exempts qualified parties from being required to get a home study, background checks or a court appearance for a hearing.
The law applies to civil-union, married lesbian and gay couples using a donor’s genetic material to achieve a pregnancy.
4 ways to prepare financially to adopt or grow your family
Getting a $15,000 grant from Help Us Adopt is great and all, but if the rest of your financial house isn’t in order, you run the risk of being denied an adoption or delaying your adoption. We have two tools to make sure you and your money are ready to grow your family.
1. The Couples Money Guide
The Couples Money Guide is a financial plan created by a same-sex couple (yours truly) for same-sex couples. It will help you and your partner or partners get on the same page financially. We’ll help you take the basic steps to get your money working for you, save money for your adoption and take important steps to protect your partner and future children – create a will and get life insurance.
For $27, you and your family will get a lifetime of financial security. Sign up by clicking here.
2. The Budget Buster Bundle
Then, sign up for the Budget Buster Bundle to get the same exact budget that we and all of our Credit Card Pay Off Plan members use. Not only will you get a budget you can live with, we’ll help you find money you didn’t know you had and help you and your family to have more money left over at the end of your month.
Also for $27, the Budget Buster Bundle is a great complement to the Couples Money Guide and will put you on the solid financial foundation many American families wish they had. Click here to get your access today!
3. The Adoption Credit and Adoption Assistance Program
The IRS provides adoptive parents a federal tax credit for a new adoption, not a second-parent adoption (meaning your spouse adopts your child or vice versa), in the year the child is adopted.
For adoptions finalized in 2019, that federal tax credit is $14,080 per child. For adoptions finalized in 2020, the federal tax credit is $14,300. The credit, which is not a refund, can only be claimed once per child and should be claimed when the parent or parents file their taxes.
As a federal tax credit, the benefit’s only realized if you have a federal income tax liability, meaning you have qualifying earned income for the filing year. The Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) to qualify for 2020 begins its phaseout at $211,160 and ends at $251,160. That means if you earn less than $211,160 and more than $251,160 you won’t qualify the adoption credit, and your credit will vary depending on where your MAGI falls within that range if you do qualify.
Likewise, expenses such as adoption fees, attorney fees, court fees, adoption expenses (including meals and lodging), re-adoption fees for adopting a foreign child and other fees directly related to the adoption may be tax-deductible.
Always talk with your tax advisor before filing your taxes.
4. The Special Needs Adoption Tax Credit
If you adopt a child from the US that a state has determined has special needs, you will likely qualify for the full tax credit minus any deduction specific to the adoption, as mentioned above, $14,080 in 2019 and $14,300 in 2020.
To be clear, the IRS definition of “children with special needs” isn’t the same as the general definition and the Special Needs Adoption Tax Credit only applies to US children adopted in the US.
Again, always talk with your tax advisor before filing your taxes.
For more help with adopting a child with special needs, we interviewed Minoti Rajput, a Certified Financial Planner and Chartered Special Needs Consultant (ChSNC), on the Queer Money® podcast. Minoti shared a wealth of information to help adopting parents of children with special needs care for their child even after they parents pass away.
Hear Minoti talk about special needs adoption on Queer Money®:
LGBTQ adoption pros/cons
LGBTQ adoption advantages
More good news is that LGBTQ parents experience benefits that are universal to all parents adopting, such as:
- Raising a child that needs a supportive and loving home
- Forming a special bond and relationship with the child’s birth family
- Experiencing the happiness of parenting and sharing one’s life with a child
In addition, children adopted to same-sex couples may also benefit from being raised to be more accepting and sympathetic of diversity. That’s something we can all agree we need more of.
LGBTQ adoption challenges
Unfortunately, as American Adoption’s shares, LGBTQ couples often encounter unique challenges in the adoption process:
- International Gay Adoption: Generally it’s more difficult for LGBTQ couples to adopt Internationally versus domestically. Not all countries permit gay adoption, so be sure to do thorough research.
- Undocumented Beliefs About how Gay Adoption Effects Children: Despite research studies documenting same-sex adoption does not impact children negatively, it’s still a common false belief.
- LGBTQ Parenting: Despite improved acceptance for same-sex couples adopting, same-sex parents and their children may still encounter discrimination and prejudice.
How to pass on your money knowledge
We’ve all said at one time or another that we wish we learned about personal finance in school or from our parents. When you become a parent, you can break the cycle of misunderstanding about money.
We created a quick video in partnership with Prudential about how to raise money-smart kids.
Topics covered with Becky of Help Us Adopt
Becky’s adoption story
- Couldn’t have a baby even with medical intervention
- Spent $82K trying to get pregnant (five IFVs)
- Now have two adopted children
- Ultimately spent $190K building a family
Why Becky founded Help Us Adopt
- Adoption costs $40K: ‘What if I had needed help?’
- Wanted to offer services as pro bono publicist, looked for adoption grant programs
- Most defined ‘family’ as a white man and woman who worship in a certain way
- Wrote business plan for nation’s only non-discriminatory grant program
- Offers grants up to $15K, help families get to finish line
How Help Us Adopt serves the LGBTQ community
- 18-19% of grants go to LGBTQ families
- Seeking more LGBTQ applicants
- $50-80K = typical household income range
- Founded on the belief in family equality
- Individuals AND couples may apply
The legal routes to adoption for LGBTQ families
- Foster care system (LGBTQ-friendly, provides monthly stipend)
- Domestic newborn adoptions
- Only two international programs
How to begin the adoption process
- Find an adoption agency or attorney
- Participate in a valid home study
- A legal document required for grant
The ‘personal statement’ portion of the Help Us Adopt application
- Be honest about why asking for help
- Want to know your personal story
How Help Us Adopt grants are delivered
- Pay invoice directly to adoption professional
- Not taxable, not a loan (no strings attached)
Help Us Adopt’s a peer-to-peer fundraising program
- Create page, solicit small donations
- Participate in seasonal campaigns (e.g.: Mother’s Day)
- Design your own for birthday
- Don’t have to make a donation yourself
Help Us Adopt’s Faces of Adoption initiative
- The social project, new post every Friday
- Tell adoption stories (i.e.: Scott Hamilton)
- Stronger, more positive voice
Resources to help you adopt
- Help Us Adopt
- Gay Guys and Debt on Like a Mother
- Queer Money® Newsletter
- Adoption Options
- LGBTQ Adoption Center at adopt.org
- Lambda Legal
- Family Equality Council
- Human Rights Campaign
Michelle Beauclair is a TX-based freelance writer and crafts blog posts that engage readers and boost conversions. She’s a helicopter horse and dog mom whose favorite music artists include 2Cellos and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Her clients include Debt Free Guys, Manna Pro, and Standlee Forage. View her portfolio at Beau Clair Media.