Policy & Practice: Advocacy
Testimony before the Committee on Children and Families
of the Florida State Senate on Senate Bill 172
Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute
Adam Pertman, Executive Director
February 14, 2006
Good morning and thank you for providing me with the opportunity to testify on SB172. I flew here from Boston this morning, rather than enjoy Valentine's Day with my wife and two kids, because I believe the issue you are examining is of such vital importance to a far greater number of children - boys and girls who don't enjoy the benefits of adoption, as my son and daughter do, but instead live more tenuous lives within the foster care system in Florida. For unknown thousands of those children, the action you take (or do not take) on this legislation will mean the difference between their growing up in a loving "forever" home, or living out their young lives without the stability, security and nurturing that we unequivocally know - from both research and experience - are most readily available within a legally unambiguous, permanent family structure.
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, which I am proud to head, is not a gay/lesbian advocacy organization of any sort. It is an independent, nonpartisan, national not-for-profit that provides research-based information to help shape better laws, policies and practices that improve the lives of everyone touched by adoption, especially children. So, while my testimony will inevitably touch on some of the controversial questions relating to gay and lesbian parenting, I will try to focus only on what we know and will try to keep my comments solely within the context of what best serves the interests of the children in Florida whose living arrangements can fairly be described as legal limbo. Their welfare is my bottom-line concern, and I know it is yours as well.
I do not want to take up too much of your time, so I have boiled down the rest of my remarks into bullet form. The major points I respectfully ask you to consider are:
- All the available research - along with professional practice, extensive experience nationally, and even individual intuition - point to a single core truth: All children deserve to live in permanent, loving families and develop far better in that environment than any other. Even when their families are perceived as (or are in fact) somehow imperfect, the outcomes appear better than if the children shuttle between temporary residences or feel unsure about the stability of their situations.
- In most cases relating to adoption and foster care nationally, the standard of "the best interests of the child" - as defined on a case-by-case basis - is considered best practice and is being implemented by agencies, social workers and courts.
- Based on the available research and historical experience, almost every major mainstream organization dealing with children's issues has come to a consensus that boys and girls fare well when raised by lesbian and gay parents. A new study by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute - so new, in fact, that it won't be publicly released for several weeks - comes to the same conclusion. The other organizations that agree include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Family Physicians, the National Association of Social Workers, the Child Welfare League of America, and many more. It is an understatement to say these groups care deeply about children's well-being and would never knowingly put them in jeopardy.
- Most adoption practitioners around the country - whose jobs also are to ensure children's welfare - have come to the same conclusion as the research and advocacy organizations mentioned above. Indeed, another study by the Adoption Institute a few years ago showed that a growing majority of adoption agencies nationwide (though obviously not in Florida) accept applications from gay and lesbian prospective parents, and about 40 percent have placed children with them. Again, the social workers, therapists and other professionals at these agencies aren't in business to hurt boys in girls but, rather, to improve their prospects in life. And they've decided those prospects are enhanced when the children stop floating among foster homes and land safely in a permanent one.
- Florida, in practice, does not prevent lesbians and gays from parenting children; indeed, in one of the enigmatic and counterintuitive actions of the state, it permits homosexuals to serve as foster moms and dads, sometimes for many years at a time, and there is no evidence of negative consequences. Furthermore, innumerable hundreds of thousands of gay people have parented children in Florida and around the country for generations through biology, fostering and adoption, again without any evident negative consequences. It is worth noting that virtually all the children in foster care were removed from their homes for reasons of abuse or neglect, and virtually all the parents involved were heterosexual.
The bottom line is painfully simple: Florida's prohibition on adoption by gays and lesbians doesn't necessarily prevent any of those adults from becoming parents; they can readily do that in other ways, in other places. So, instead, it only decreases the odds that children in this state's custody will ever get permanent, loving homes.
I will be happy to respond to any questions, and will comply in a timely manner to requests for additional materials or research findings. My contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org and 617-332-8944, and the Institute's website is www.adoptioninsitute.org. I have also included a copy of my bio for your background.