Our Gay Adoption Process Went From Terrible To Heart-Warming
When we started our lesbian family five years ago, we didnâ€™t have the right to marry and, unlike me, my partner â€“ the non-biological mother â€“ didnâ€™t attain legal parenthood the minute our baby came into this world. We knew we would pursue â€œsecond-parent adoption,â€ a process many gay couples undergo to ensure the legal rights of the non-biological parent.
Not knowing anyone who had already undergone second-parent adoption, we didnâ€™t know how complicated it would be. Over six monthsâ€™ time, we underwent fingerprinting, a home visit from a social worker and the culling and organizing of pages and pages of documents. It initially seemed like an indignity, but now I think every family could benefit from doing it.
We began the process with our attorney, when I was six months pregnant. A lot of the process is subject to the schedule of the family courts where you live and, like most things involving the government, doesnâ€™t generally happen at lightning speed.
We had to file a petition for our same-sex adoption once the baby was born, but we could start gathering the background information beforehand. We had to provide, of course, basic biographical information, including the last 20 addresses at we both had resided. (Who even remembers where they lived in college?) We had to be fingerprinted at our local police station, a process that required a money order and a lot of patience, and a do-over for me (apparently, I have problematic thumbs). We had to provide documentation from our pediatrician about our babyâ€™s well-being, and notes from our own physician about our respective health and wellness. We had to procure a signed statement from the sperm bank we patronized, to support the â€œfoggy nightâ€ theory of my conception â€“ which is a strange legal theory that essentially means thereâ€™s no father to speak of (i.e., conception happened â€œone foggy nightâ€).
We had to receive a social worker in our home to evaluate our parenthood after our daughter arrived. We had to write a joint essay about the rationale for us wanting to pursue parenthood, and provide three letters of recommendation from non-family members about our suitability as parents. We had to provide copies of our babyâ€™s birth certificate, which only listed my name as the mother â€“ until my partner was legally established as the second parent. All of these documents had to be filed to the court by our lawyer, who also had to paid for this service.
The aforementioned was a time-consuming, detailed process â€“ one that at first left me resentful and annoyed. Straight couples who bring a child into the world through sexual intercourse â€“ or even alternate insemination methods â€“ donâ€™t have to be visited by a social worker, or petition a court to have their family validated. (Straight couples who adopt do, however, have to undergo a lot of this process.) It felt like yet another reminder of our second-class citizenship, of all of the things that we have to work that much harder at, simply because we donâ€™t possess a penis between us.
Then the letters of recommendation from friends arrived.
â€œThis baby is no less [Lizâ€™s partnerâ€™s] than Lizâ€™s â€“ and that can be seen in every detail of this babyâ€™s life: her summerâ€™s spent at the Jersey Shore with [partnerâ€™s] family, the books read to her every night by [partner], the tiny used diapers changed every two hours by the partner.â€
â€œI canâ€™t imagine a couple who could provide a better home to a baby than these two â€“ their 10 years together have been filled with joy, laughter, tears, real life.â€
It was sort of like being at your own funeral â€“ getting to hear the wonderful things people say at your eulogy â€“ but we were very much alive, and appreciative. We had to give the court the originals of these letters, but we kept copies for our files. It was actually my partner who pointed out that these documents, together with the essay we crafted together about our journey toward parenthood, provided a beautiful and moving snapshot of our family â€“ one that straight couples who simply had intercourse didnâ€™t necessarily possess in the same way. [tagbox tag=”same-sex parents”]
When the social worker came for the home visit, we all bonded and laughed about having babies, midnight feedings, new-parent anxieties â€“ and the experience felt more like having coffee with a new acquaintance than being scrutinized with a magnifying glass. She told us it appeared we were doing a great job, and her official report â€“ which we also received a copy of â€“ echoed this. That letter went into the file, too.
A few months later we got our court date. With our four-month-old baby and our respective mothers, we went into the judgeâ€™s chambers, were sworn in, and were announced a legal family by a Brooklyn judge. We took pictures with the judge â€“ looking somber, as youâ€™d expect. That picture made it onto our holiday cards that year â€“ and yes, into the file.
Maybe it wouldnâ€™t be a bad thing, I realized, if this much thought and planning went into every family.