Children & Parenting


The number of LGBT-headed families continues to grow, as does our need to secure legal equality, fairness and respect for LGBT parents and our children. We provides current resources that address the many potential paths to parenthood as well as issues around LGBT youth and families in schools.

Adoption Options 

Here are four options for adopting a child:

  1. State or Public Agency Adoption. Plan to adopt a child who is in foster care from the public child welfare system.  These children tend to be older and have been removed from their birthparents due to abuse or neglect.  A series of classes on how to successfully parent these children is often required.
  2. Agency Open Adoption. Plan an open adoption through an adoption agency;
  3. Open Independent Adoption. Set out on your own to find birth parents who want or need to place their child in an adoption and complete that adoption through an attorney.
  4. International adoption. Adopt a child from another country through an agency or independently.

The Challenges

LGBT people have successfully adopted children through each of these methods. However, each road poses its own challenges. For example, in the past some prospective LGBT parents who pursue an agency open adoption have found that there is a hierarchy of preferred parents for a child, and they are not on top. As a result, they are only offered children with special needs, while non-LGBT people are offered the younger, healthier children. (As April Martin has noted, this means that the most skillful parenting is required of the LGBT parents entrusted with these children.)  It is important to thoroughly research agencies to ensure you will be welcome, and their protocol is compatible with your adoption needs.

The Good News

More and more birth parents are choosing same-sex couples over different-sex couples and many private agencies report an increase in placements with our community.  Again, choosing an agency that you know will positively represent you to birth parents is essential, and even if the “waiting period” feels lengthy you can be confident that the agency is doing their best. It is also important to talk to other LGBT adoptive parents in your community about their experiences and for agency recommendations.

Some who pursue an independent open adoption risk heartbreak as they go through great effort to track down birth parents only to encounter repeated rejection from those who do not want to deal with them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  However, as mentioned above, an increasing number of birthparents are openly choosing same-sex couples.

At this point, it is very difficult to pursue an international adoption as an openly same-sex couple, or as an openly single LGBT person. Many of the countries that have children for adoption are extremely prejudiced against LGBT people, and either have explicit laws or policies or implicit cultural or societal “codes” that are against LGBT adoption. Presently, even the most welcoming agencies are exercising extreme caution about representing any LGBT people for international adoption because the process in general is becoming more challenging and even non-LGB couples are likely to face increased barriers.  This decision does not reflect the agency’s position in favor of adoption by LGBT adults, but is based on the realities of the regulations and laws governing international adoption.

Keep in mind that prospective parents’ experiences do vary greatly because other people’s understanding about LGBT parents varies greatly. For example, one person’s great adoption experience in Washington, D.C., may be countered by another’s impossible experience in Colorado. But every day, more and more LGBT people are adopting children who need a good and loving home, and you could be one of them.

Acknowledgements: This information was provided by Shari Levine, M.A., Executive Director of Open Adoption & Family Services, Inc.

Assisted Reproduction 

Donor Insemination: The Basics

Donor insemination is one possible path to parenthood for the LGBT community. This page outlines some of the basics.

Conception Methods

There are two methods on conception: intracervical insemination (ICI) and intrauterine insemination (IUI.) Here are the key differences between them:

Intracervical Insemination
The sperm is placed just inside the woman’s cervical opening through the use of a speculum and syringe.

  • It can be performed at home or in a doctor’s office.
  • It is less expensive than intrauterine insemination

Intrauterine Insemination
The sperm is placed just inside a woman’s uterus, using a flexible catheter.

  • It can only be performed in a doctor’s office.
  • It is more expensive than intracervical insemination. But it tends to lead to a pregnancy more quickly.

Known vs. Unknown Donor

The first choice anyone considering donor insemination must make is do you want to become pregnant through a friend or acquaintance (that is, a “known donor”) or through someone you find through a sperm bank (an “unknown donor”).

Known Donor

Here is a brief overview of the advantages and risks involved in choosing a known donor followed by some of the precautions you should take if you pursue this path.


  • You know what the donor looks like and acts like.
  • As he or she grows up, your child can develop a relationship with the donor.
  • The donor may be genetically linked to the non-biological mother, guaranteeing her some biological connection to the child.


  • If a known donor later develops strong feelings for your child, you, or if you have a partner, she, could lose custody or have it curtailed; and
  • The man you choose could be HIV-positive or have another serious transmittable disease that he might pass on to your child.

This is why so many experts recommend that women choose an unknown donor. While they pose their own disadvantages, they do protect you from the legal risks of a custody battle and greatly reduce the risk of your child’s exposure to HIV and other viruses.


  • Asking your donor to go to a sperm bank, where his specimen can be quarantined and tested for HIV and other diseases; and
  • Learning what experts recommend as the best tactics for protecting yourself legally.  See Known Donor Agreement.

Unknown Donor

Using a sperm bank typically does not offer your child the opportunity to know the donor, at least, perhaps, until after the age of 18. But in many ways, it remains a safer alternative than becoming pregnant through someone you know.

Practical Advantages

Reduced Risk of HIV/AIDS
Accredited banks quarantine a semen sample for six months before releasing it to any woman. The reason: When a man is exposed to HIV, he may not develop any antibodies for as long as six to eight weeks and, thereby, may unknowingly put others at risk. By quarantining all specimens, a sperm bank allows plenty of time for thorough testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Ability to Control Your Child’s Exposure to Problematic Genes
With a sperm bank, you can choose your donor based on a clean bill of health, or, at least, a clear-headed evaluation of the donor’s comprehensive medical history.

Reduced Risk of Custody Challenges
In some states, when a woman has a child with the help of a male friend or acquaintance, she exposes herself to potential custody challenges. But when she has a child with the help of an anonymous donor found through a sperm bank, she is shielded from those challenges because unknown donors surrender all their parenting rights.

Read more in: Selecting Sperm Banks and Unknown Donors

Insurance Coverage for Fertility Services

Health insurance companies generally only pay for alternative insemination when a woman has a diagnosis of infertility – that is, when it is considered “medically necessary.” There are different definitions of infertility. The most common and traditional one is when there has been 12 months of unprotected intercourse without conception. Depending on a woman’s age, some insurance companies reduce that to six months of unprotected intercourse – or inseminations (performed in a doctor’s office, not at home).

If you are uncertain about what your health insurance policy covers, you can call the customer representative and ask:

  • What infertility treatments are covered?
  • What is the definition of infertility?
  • How is it documented?
  • Does the policy cover insemination for same-sex couples?

Find more information at Resolve, the national infertility association, theAmerican Society for Reproductive Medicine or the InterNational Council on Infertility Information Dissemination.

Surrogacy: What to Expect

There is not a “typical” surrogacy experience on which to base expectations. Each person’s experience varies widely depending on their specific situation. However, we have outlined below several considerations and basic steps of the surrogacy process that should be helpful in planning to build a family.

On average, having a child through traditional surrogacy costs about $50,000 and having a child through gestational surrogacy costs at least $120,000-$140,000, according to Growing Generations, which describes itself as the only gay- and lesbian-owned surrogacy firm primarily serving the gay and lesbian community.

  1. The basic steps involved in the surrogacy process are:
  2. The intended parents must find the right prospective surrogate on their own or through a surrogacy agency.
  3. If pursuing traditional surrogacy, the intended father must donate sperm and wait for six months while it is quarantined and then tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  4. If using a surrogacy agency, the intended parents and surrogate may be asked to undergo a medical screening and psychological evaluation.
  5. The intended parents must hire an attorney and complete the required agreements specifying each party’s rights and responsibilities.
  6. The intended parents, surrogate and medical staff must begin the process of conception through donor insemination or in vitro fertilization.


Acknowledgements: This information was provided by Diane S. Hinson, Esq. and Linda C. ReVeal, Esq. of Creative Family Connections LLC.

Disclaimer: This document is provided for information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding your specific situation, we strongly recommend that you consult a competent, licensed family law attorney who is familiar with these issues. It is also important that you understand that the information provided here in no way constitute, and should not be relied upon, as legal advice.

About Foster Parenting

More than half a million children are currently in foster care in the U.S.   This means they have been temporarily placed with families outside of their own home due to child abuse or neglect.  Their homes have been broken by death, divorce, drugs, alcohol, physical or sexual abuse, illness or financial hardship. Of these children in foster care, over 14,000 children are currently living with lesbian or gay foster parents.

The goal of foster parenting is to provide a safe, stable, nurturing environment. Foster parenting requires courage, empathy, patience and tenacity as well as love.

What To Prepare For

One of the most important things a foster parent needs to be prepared for is having a child in your home and then having them leave. Nearly half of all children in foster care have an end goal to be reunited with their families.

Many children come into the foster care system with emotional problems for which a foster family will have to prepare. A lot of these problems stem from feelings of abandonment, experiencing abuse and a lack of nurturing. Patience and preparation are necessities for foster parents.

Steps To Becoming A Foster Parent

Requirements for becoming a foster parent differ from state to state. However, there are some universal requirements such as: being 21 years of age or older; passing a criminal background check; and completing a successful homestudy and training.

Below are the basic steps to becoming a foster parent as outlined by the National Foster Parent Association. These steps are standard no matter where you decide to foster parent.

  • Complete an application for a family home license.
  • Complete a background check, a criminal history check and finger printing of each adult member of the household.
  • Have a stable and supportive family.
  • Complete a homestudy and interview.
  • Provide character references.
  • Be 21 years of age or older.
  • Complete training before you may receive your license.

Finding an Agency

While the names may vary, you need to contact the government agency in your state that is responsible for foster care. It might be called “The Department of Human Resources,” “The Division of Children and Family Services,” “The Department of Social Services” or something similar. For the easiest way to find the foster care agency in your state, go to theNational Foster Care & Adoption Directory Search maintained by the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Make sure you do your research when selecting an agency that will license you. Along with your own research, contact LGBT resources within your community to see if there are any agencies that come recommended. An agency that is open and accepting of your family will make the entire process go smoother.

Foster Parenting & Finances

The decision to become a foster parent includes several financial considerations. In most cases, foster parents receive a set reimbursement to help with expenses while a child is in their home. The monthly stipend ranges from $200 to $700, depending on the age of the child and the state and county you are in. Most states also provide small clothing allowances and some day care or day camp funds. Foster children also are covered under your county, state and federal welfare health benefits for their medical and dental needs.

For more information:

Federal Tax Guide for Foster Parents []


Some schools have taken concrete steps to demonstrate their commitment to LGBT inclusiveness, while many others have a long way to go in a welcoming environment for all children and families.

Welcoming Schools

Welcoming Schools, an initiative of the HRC Foundation Family Project, helps elementary schools embrace family diversity, end bullying and avoid gender stereotyping. Learn more.

Browse below for additional resources about schools and youth:


 Resources provided by the Human Rights Campaign