There is a growing trend among LGBT individuals and couples to become foster and adoptive parents. This trend rings true for Louisville and Kentucky as well. According to 2010 U.S. Census data, there are 11,572 same-sex couples in the state, and 24% of them are raising children. Of course, not all of these couples are doing so as foster and/or adoptive parents. Some of these parents are natural parents from artificial insemination or previous opposite-sex relationships. And it’s not just LGBT couples that are raising children. Some LGBT individuals are doing so as single parents. How do Louisville individuals and couples fare when becoming a part of the foster and/or adoptive process?
Roby Wayne became a foster parent in 2007. Since that time, 17 foster children have come through his door. He adopted his first child last year, after he had been in the home since 2008. He says, “I had expected resistance from individuals with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services [for being gay]. It has been over four years and I’ve yet to encounter any discrimination for being gay. I’ve always been treated with respect and, often times, admiration, for being foster parent. The ‘gay aspect’ rarely comes up.”
Roby finds a similar reaction when out in the community. He relates that he was recently at a public event with his mother, partner, son, and foster children. His mother was holding the youngest foster son, who was four months old. “If you’ve ever carried a very small infant through a crowd, you know that you will be stopped by other mothers making ‘goo-goo’ noises and asking many questions about age, prematurity, weight, eye color, etc. One inquiring elderly woman stopped my mom. This fragile woman had to be in her mid to late 80's. She made the usual cooing noises at my foster son, asked my mother the normal questions about age, weight, etc. Then she asked ‘Where’s the mother?’ My mother immediately responded, ‘My son is gay and he is fostering this child.’ I was initially shocked by her candor as I have never heard my mother openly make a statement such as that; but, I was even more astonished by the elderly woman’s response: ‘More power to him!’"
Troy Burden and his partner adopted their son at birth ten years ago through a private adoption agency. The agency had been involved in gay adoptions before, and the birth mother chose the prospective parents with whom she wished to work, and so being a gay couple was never an issue in the adoption process. Troy and his family have faced very little negativity in raising their son as well, though he acknowledges that they are careful about the situations and places in which they place themselves. Troy adds that with LGBT adoptions, “there is no oops, we’re pregnant” moment. He says that the process innately involves a lot more planning and proactive thinking to make sure that you think of every situation. They have spent a lot of money on legal fees to make sure that their family is properly protected because there is no law in place that adequately protects them.
Richard and Anthony Harland-Bennett’s journey has not been so easy. Richard became a guardian of their daughter at five weeks of age when her birth parents abandoned her in Florida. Both dads could not adopt in Florida, and so they moved to Madison, Wisconsin, to complete the adoption process. Wisconsin’s law is gender neutral, allowing discretion to include LGBT couples as adoptive parents. The family moved to the Louisville area seven years ago. Things have not been so easy since their move to an area within metro Louisville but beyond the city limits, where they could own some land. When they moved, they received threats of harm to their animals. They tried to enroll their daughter into a school-based extra-curricular activity, but were denied based upon complaints from other parents. They noted that the kids were fine; it was the adults who had an issue. They decided to home-school their daughter for several years until things settled down. Things have improved some since then according to Richard. “They initially saw us as an anomaly, until they got to know us,” he says. Still, they find that they don’t do a lot of activities outside of the house. “Outside the city,” Richard concludes, “you have to be careful.”
Scott and Rodney Moubray-Carrico found a move necessary as well. They adopted their son from Guatemala three years ago. This choice also prompted a move across the river. Because of the then (and current) state of Kentucky law prohibiting second-parent (and thus same-sex) adoptions, they moved from Louisville to Southern Indiana, where such adoptions are allowed. “We wanted to have certainty of our equal parentage,” he explained.
LGBT individuals and couples raising children (under any circumstances, not just adoption or foster care) in and around Louisville can find support and activities in the Facebook group LGBT Parent Support Group.
Photo: Courtesy Scott Moubray-Carrico