Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Celebrate the Value of Gay Parents

I don't need formal research to tell me that gay men and lesbians make good parents: I know it on the grounds of my own success (affirmed by my daughters), and the public testimony of one of them:

Gay parents? I recommend them.

Even a pope, John Paul I, is believed to have supported adoption by gay parents, on the grounds that they would take in the children others might reject. (His view has been confirmed by the experience of adoption agencies and childcare professionals, who have frequently confirmed that without a pool of prospective gay parents, many kids would simply remain unplaced).

But for those who want solid research evidence on the suitability of gay/lesbian parents, there is a growing mountain of material out there. (Sadly, I am not aware of any research on trans parenting. Can any readers help?). Huffington Post summarizes some of it.

Gay Parents Better Than Straight Parents? What Research Says

Gay parents "tend to be more motivated, more committed than heterosexual parents on average, because they chose to be parents," said Abbie Goldberg, a psychologist at Clark University in Massachusetts who researches gay and lesbian parenting. Gays and lesbians rarely become parents by accident, compared with an almost 50 percent accidental pregnancy rate among heterosexuals, Goldberg said. "That translates to greater commitment on average and more involvement."

And while research indicates that kids of gay parents show few differences in achievement, mental health, social functioning and other measures, these kids may have the advantage of open-mindedness, tolerance and role models for equitable relationships, according to some research. Not only that, but gays and lesbians are likely to provide homes for difficult-to-place children in the foster system, studies show. (Of course, this isn't to say that heterosexual parents can't bring these same qualities to the parenting table.) [5 Myths About Gay People Debunked]

Adopting the neediest

Gay adoption recently caused controversy in Illinois, where Catholic Charities adoption services decided in November to cease offering services because the state refused funding unless the groups agreed not to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Rather than comply, Catholic Charities closed up shop.

Catholic opposition aside, research suggests that gay and lesbian parents are actually a powerful resource for kids in need of adoption. According to a 2007 report by the Williams Institute and the Urban Institute, 65,000 kids were living with adoptive gay parents between 2000 and 2002, with another 14,000 in foster homes headed by gays and lesbians. (There are currently more than 100,000 kids in foster care in the U.S.)

-read the full analysis at  Huffington Post.

The challenge that legal approval for gay adoption  presents to Catholic adoption agencies has been widely reported. But there is another, wider issue for the Church that has received much less attention. With some 80 000 children living with gay adoptive or foster parents, and many more living with a biological parent who has a same sex partner, that's an awful lot of kids being raised by gay parents - and a multiple of that number with friends and classmates who are being raised by gay parents.

That's an awful lot of young kids in school, and a fair proportion of them will be attending Catholic schools - we don't know for certain just how many, but it's likely to be many thousands. Against that number, it's worth noting that there have been just two reports of Catholic schools that have attempted to exclude a child with same sex parents (and one of those had the diocese step in to reverse the attempt).

These children are growing up with the evidence of their own experience (like my daughters) or that of their friends, that gay parents are no more likely to be the hedonistic reprobates of some Catholic assumptions, than any others.

That's a major cause for celebration.

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