Family Matters

The Pursuit of Life, Liberty, and a Loving Family

You and I are special. We were born into families with mothers and fathers that loved us and took care of us and made the choices we couldn’t make until we came of age and could start to make those choices. More importantly, their love and guidance helped us to grow into men and women capable of making those choices. But for many children, not yet of age, who can’t make these choices, who can’t take care of themselves, this isn’t the case.

Every year there are more and more children trapped in foster care in need of loving, supportive families; however, fewer than half of these children will ever find permanent homes. There’s a shortage of families who want to adopt, and against all beliefs, some loving parents are not even allowed to adopt. If we change our heartless ways and start to allow gays and lesbians to adopt, many of these children will have a chance at finding families who will love and care for them as they deserve.

Many people are concerned that children raised by gay parents will be brought up with poor values that lead to a skewed sense of what families are and may become gay themselves. Before these concerns can be addressed, however, it is critical to understand why these children are in such dire need of finding homes to take them in and provide them with the care they need.

Children are placed in foster care when their parents are unable or unwilling to adequately care for and raise them, for reasons as varied as physical and emotion abuse to neglect. Although it’s true that some children in foster care return to their birth family, many more stay in the foster care system and are shuffled around from home to home.

The number of children in foster care has fallen from 523,000 in 2002 to 463,000 in 2008; however, the number of children in foster care awaiting adoption has remained fairly constant in comparison to that number, only decreasing by one sixth of the total decrease in children in foster care. That means that the percentage of children waiting to be adopted has actually risen since 2002! So dire is the issue that President Barack Obama even declared November 2009 National Adoption Month.

Anyone can see without a second glance that a permanent home is more beneficial to a child than multiple upheavals as he or she is moved throughout the foster care system. A stable placement provides a child not only with adequate time to settle into his or her new living conditions but also the benefits of a long-term home where they can receive the consistent love and support they need. One study conducted on placement stability and the mental health costs of children in foster care found that after a child’s first placement, his or her likelihood to require mental health services grew nearly exponentially with every new family he or she was placed with. There is no arguing that short-term homes only harm the children they house.

Now that the importance of finding good homes for these children is evident, let’s consider the opposition for allowing gays and lesbians to adopt. More than twenty percent of States have taken measures to prevent gays and lesbians from adopting: Both Utah and Arizona prevent unmarried couples from adopting, thereby prohibiting gays, who cannot yet legally be married, from adopting children. Mississippi bans gay and lesbian couples from adopting, whereby allowing single gays and lesbians to adopt. Florida, presently the only state to explicitly ban adoption by all gays and lesbians, still allows them to foster children, ironically enough. Meanwhile, more than fifteen other states still aim to ban gays and lesbians from adopting.

If the legal restrictions on adoption were lifted, how would children be affected by having same-sex parents? According to Focus on the Family, an organization promoting Christian family values run by Dr. James Dobson, children need both a father and a mother for proper development. This opinion is widely held, as many assume that being raised with opposite-sex parents will help teach children proper gender roles. “What kind of image of manhood and fatherhood will little Jacob obtain from being raised by two lesbians?” asked Robert Knight, director of cultural studies for the conservative Family Research Council, echoing the concerns of many Americans. “How will little Anna, who will never know the love of a father, relate to men someday?”

However, the same argument proposed by Knight can also be applied to single-parent homes affected by divorce, death of a spouse, or by not having been married in the first place. Nonetheless, studies have shown that the children raised in same-sex parent homes have been as well-adjusted in society as the children of such “one mother, one father” homes being advocated by groups like Knight’s and Dobson’s. Judith Stacey, a professor of sociology, gender, and sexuality at New York University, asserts that “not a single study has found a difference [between children of gay and straight parents] that you can construe as harmful.”

“I just say I have two moms,” says eight-year-old Madison, the daughter of Stephanie Caraway and Sheri Ciancia. “They’re no different from other parents except that they’re two girls. It’s not like comparing two parents with two trees. It’s comparing two parents with two other parents.” Another study actually finds that gay and lesbian parents are twenty percent more likely than other parents to be involved with their children’s schools. If these statements do not prove that gays and lesbians can be qualified parents, what does?

Another popular concern is that being raised by gay parents will inevitably make children gay themselves. Looking past the logical fallacy that gay parents make gay children but not all straight parents make only straight children (or else there’d be no gay people at all), we can look at numerous studies that find a child is no more likely to be gay if raised by same-sex parents than if he or she were raised by opposite-sex parents. According to researcher Charlotte Patterson, the children of homosexual parents have no higher incidence of homosexuality than the children of heterosexual parents. No studies have ever shown that gay and lesbians parents have any affect on the sexuality of their children.

Furthermore, the children of gays and lesbians benefit more than might be expected by being raised by homosexual parents. COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) reports many surprising findings: Not only are there as many as fourteen million children living with gay parents in the United States, they live in more than ninety-five percent of the counties in the country. There is no evidence that children are psychologically or physically harmed by having homosexual parents, and on the measures of school functioning, psychosocial well-being, and romantic relationships and behaviors, these children are as well-adjusted as their peers from heterosexual-headed families. Other bodies of research also assert that not only are these children more open-minded than those raised by opposite-sex parents, daughters have more self-esteem and sons are less aggressive and more caring when raised by same-sex parents.

What reasons are there left that children awaiting adoption should not be allowed to be adopted by gays and lesbians? Research repeatedly shows that children raised by same-sex parents are no worse-off than those raised by heterosexuals, and on the contrary, research often hails these children as being as loved, as cared for, and as well-adjusted as the children of straight parents. For thousands of kids still seeking families to call their own, should we not let them be adopted by anyone who will provide for them and support them as they deserve to be?

Class: ENG 111 Expository Writing
Assignment: Write a argumentative paper on a controversial issue.
Grade: 98/100 (A)
Date: December 2009

A works cited list is available on request.

Comment: After taking ENG 112, I was no longer pleased with some of the literary techniques I had failed to originally use (if only my ENG 111 teacher had taught us the beauty of not starting the essay with your thesis) and I decided to rewrite the introduction and make a few minor changes. In my opinion, however, a 98 on an essay I had only five days to write was pretty awesome, and with these changes, I truly believe this essay is worthy of the two points I couldn’t snag.

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