Press Release


The Donaldson Adoption Institute’s Family Advocacy Efforts Shine a Light on Importance of Standards, Policies and Practices for All Adoptions


April Dinwoodie (212) 925-4089

New York, NY, March 9, 2016 – The U.S. Supreme Court reversed an Alabama Supreme Court decision declining to recognize a second-parent adoption granted by a Georgia court to a lesbian mother who had raised her partner’s three biological children from birth. The March 7, 2016 opinion in V.L. v. E.L. (No. 15-648) “restores V.L. full rights as an adoptive parent.”

The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) was lead amicus on a brief filed in December 2015 by law firm Arnold & Porter, LLP in support of the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ petition for U.S. Supreme Court review of the Alabama decision. The brief, joined by other leading child welfare organizations, highlighted the grave psychological and emotional impact on adopted children of undoing completed adoptions and noted a particular class of adoptive children who were placed at risk: those who have gained an additional parent through second-parent adoptions which many states have interpreted their statutes to permit. In addition to the serious trauma that can be caused by severance of a parent-child relationship, children of second-parent adoption would face other highly negative consequences, including loss of health insurance and child support.

Prior to legal marriage for the gay and lesbian community, second-parent adoptions helped to create more security on many levels for children and families. Efforts to undo or nullify an adoption by a second parent from one state to another and forcing the separation of a parent could cause harm to the children and family and set a very unfortunate precedent for future adoption cases.

Joining DAI on the brief were the North American Council on Adoptable Children, First Focus, Center for the Study of Social Policy, Child Welfare League of America, Voice for Adoption, Ampersand Families, Center for Adoption Policy and Family Builders by Adoption.

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2015 decision in Obergefell, et al. v. Hodges, et al. (No. 14-556) holding that the U.S. Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry, going forward “second parent” adoptions presumably will decrease in number. Second-parent adoptions – in which both adults in same-sex relationships become adoptive parents in separate, sequential legal proceedings, without the “first” adoptive parent losing their parental rights – are rendered unnecessary by the Obergefell decision since married couples can adopt jointly.

DAI was also lead on an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell by law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. challenging the constitutionality of state same-sex marriage bans. The brief focused on the harmful impact of state same-sex marriage bans on adopted children and the child welfare system in the United States.

For more information and background on V.L. v. E.L., see


About The Donaldson Adoption Institute

Since 1996, The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) has worked to improve the lives of children and families across our country and around the world through research, education and advocacy that has led to better laws, policies and practices. We engage all members of the adoption and foster care adoption communities, including the professionals that serve them. In our twentieth year, DAI is committed to reframing the conversations and changing perceptions, inspiring solidarity and advocating for change to ensure the strength of all families.

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