How adoption agencies discriminate against hopeful LGBT parents

Jun 12, 2013

If you’re gay or lesbian and you want to adopt a child, not every adoption agency in Michigan will be willing to help. If you do find an agency that will help, you might run into more discrimination.

Even if you have a home, pass the background checks, and otherwise meet the state requirements for adoption, you can be turned down by an adoption agency if you don’t meet its standards.

William Blacquiere is the President and CEO of Bethany Christian Services. Last year during a legislative hearing he euphemistically referenced the line in the sand.

“At Bethany, we would never deny a family for their secular status, or single-parent, or anything of that nature. However, if the family would be in conflict with our religious beliefs, we would assist them to go to another agency.”

It’s not quite a ‘heterosexuals only’ sign in the window, but the so-called ‘lifestyle’ of gays and lesbians conflicts with Bethany’s religious beliefs.

It’s not quite a ‘heterosexuals only’ sign in the window, but the so-called ‘lifestyle’ of gays and lesbians conflicts with Bethany’s religious beliefs.

Bethany and some other faith-based adoption services such as Catholic Charities actually want to put in law what they do in practice. They say they must protect their religious liberties and not be forced by government to help place adoptive kids in homes of people who live in a way the agencies find sinful.

But they get paid by the state to place kids in homes… up to $10 thousand dollars a child.

Jay Kaplan is an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.

“They, by taking state money, are a state actor. If they have a policy that they target gay people for discriminatory treatment, I think that raises some equal protection concerns under our state constitution.”

So many gay and lesbian people who want to adopt are turned away, it prompted Jennifer DeVivo and her husband to start an adoption agency, Fostering Futures. About one-third of their clients are lesbian or gay. She says she suspects there’s another problem.

“There is discrimination in the process.”

DeVivo says  there's evidence that many adoption agencies might be ignoring gay or lesbian applicants who've filed with a statewide exchange.

“I have seen gay couple inquire about 30 children and not get one answer back of interest in their home. That just would not happen and it does not happen with the heterosexual couples we work with.”

DeVivo says it might be policy or it might be individuals at adoption agencies passing up qualified parents just because they might be gay or lesbian.

A spokesman at the Michigan Department of Human Services says they plan to look into those concerns about the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange, the statewide clearinghouse for adoptions.

It’s not as if the state doesn’t need to find homes for kids.

Emily Dievendorf is with Equality Michigan. She says there are plenty of people in the LGBT community who can help.

"So, we have kids that need homes, we have parents that want to give homes and yet, we are not making sure that there is access to homes for those children.”

“We are pretending that there is not a shortage of homes out there when we block off same-sex parents. When, in reality, we have over 5,000 kids in Michigan’s foster care system at any one time and we have around 3,000 kids that are eligible for adoption at any one time in Michigan. So, we have kids that need homes, we have parents that want to give homes and yet, we are not making sure that there is access to homes for those children.”

So if you're gay or lesbian in Michigan, and you want to open your home to one of those kids, it might be a bumpier ride than your straight friends find.

This the final story in a three part series. To read the previous two stories, click on the links below.

Part 1: For gay and lesbian families in Michigan, one parent is left out

Part 2: How judges were stopped from granting two-parent adoptions to gay and lesbian parents