Adoption hurdles for LGBT families: LGBT couples discuss some of the challenges of adopting a child

By Ricky Riley | epicarthouse.net 

Less than half of the states in the U.S recognize same-sex adoption outright

The Child Welfare Information Gateway reports that there were an estimated 400,540 children in the foster care system. Most of these children won’t have homes that they can call their own. In fact, they may stay in the foster system until they are legally forced out at 18 years old.

The laws for LBGT couples adopting children are complicated and unspecific in most states. However, in recent years, the States that legalize gay marriage adopted laws that favor adoption for these couples. There are twenty-two states, District of Columbia (1995), and Guam that is clear on this issue. Those States that allow same sex adoption outright are:

Rhode Island (1993), New Jersey (1998), New York (2002), California (2003), Indiana (2006), Maine (2007), Florida (2010), Arkansas (2011), Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, New Hampshire, Washington, Hawaii, Iowa, Nevada, Delaware, Maryland, Colorado, Minnesota, and Guam.

With the many legal gray areas, same- sex couples must think outside of the box to get the family they want.

Trouble Down in Texas

John Skinner and John Milner have wanted a family with multiple children for 15 years. They moved from North Carolina to Atlanta in 2007, because there were laws against same sex adoption in that state. Three years later the two started the adoption process. They were directed to the Mega Family Project dedicated to LGBT adoption cases where a case manager contacted the Giving Tree adoption agency.

The couple searched for children in Washington State, California, Ohio, and Texas. ”We wanted kids between the ages of 5- 12 years old. We were offered kids that no one else wanted. We were a last resort for the children (they presented to us).”

Then they finally landed in Texas where they found 16-year-old Michael and 13-year-old Zachary. Oddly enough, “Texas has an easier path to adopting children than Georgia” said Skinner.

However, it still was not easy. Throughout the process Skinner and Milner suffered prejudice.

While trying to negotiate the terms of Michael and Zachary’s adoption in Texas, their caseworker warned them not to ask too many questions.

“Texas lost our paperwork, delayed the children and if we questioned Texas they would have stopped the adoption process all together. I (John Skinner) had to apologize (for asking questions).”

All of the legalities had to take place in DeKalb County, GA where the two live. There were a few judges that had a problem with same-sex adoption so their attorney recommended them to adopt on National Adoption Day (November 25th) because there was a judge that dealt specifically with same-sex adoption.

The two boys (Zachary and Michael) were in group-homes for 7 years. They are two children out of five siblings that were all placed in different foster families.

Skinner believes that “the foster care system is not designed for the child. The foster-system misdiagnoses children to get more money for the child”.

Along with the prejudice, the Kids (Michael and Zachary) had medication they did not need. Michael had six prescriptions but only needed two. Also, there were kids (they wanted to adopt) with misdiagnoses that were not true.

Even with all the trouble, the couple continues to try to add to their family.

adoption2-pixland-143033_L

Mayhem in Pelham

Wayne Scott and Stephen Williams, Jr. had a different set of issues when they decided to adopt. February 2010 mark the beginning of their journey into the process and it took them two years to get things done.

They went to the Giving Tree adoption agency and the agency sent their home study to a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter, who works for Bethany Christian Services. It was this recruiter at Bethany Christian Services that matched them with their son, Devin. He is a type one diabetic and has ADHD. However, those medical conditions were not the issues halting the adoption.

“I don’t know if it had something to do with people’s prejudices or the system itself. When the children are young enough they have no say [in the process], however when they are old enough they have more of a say over the number siblings, [rather or not] they want a mom and dad, two dads, or two moms. These questions empower the kids. Devin did not care. He said ‘I don’t care if they have horns coming out of their heads … as long as they love me [that is what matters]’.”

He came from a house with two conservative preachers foster parents that did not approve of homosexuals.

“The previous family tried to sabotage but we had a very supportive staff behind us. We picked him up at school and we met all of his teachers and school staff. When Devin came up to visit us, we taught him how to ride a bike. He never learned how to ride.”

Once he was playing by the pool and Devin fell and scrapped his knee. The former family said that every time Devin stayed with them that he would have new injuries. Devin talked with pediatrician and told him the truth that no one was hurting him.

The foster parents did not keep Devin in school. He had poor attendance in school.

Normally, prospective parents are not allowed to meet a child until they have formally decided that they are going to adopt that child.

This is necessary so that the child does not feel rejected by potential parents that, after meeting the child, decide not to adopt him/her.

That would be pretty traumatic for a child who most likely already feels rejected. That would be pretty traumatic for a child who most likely already feels rejected.

“It can also be very difficult for a prospective family to make a decision about adopting a child when all the family has is a written profile and some additional limited information, the amount and nature of which varies from child to child.”

At first we were not sure that Devin was the right child for us – we had a lot of questions and concerns based on the information that had been provided to us.

As a means of abating some of the concerns that we had our agency worked with DFCS to coordinate a “chance” meeting in which Devin would NOT know that we were meeting him as potential parents.

This article was unpublished and unfinished. It was intended for HLN.com. This is the unedited version.

Human Trafficking is a Deep-Seated and Persistent Trend in Atlanta, Ga

Image

By Ricky Riley | The Atlantic Post

Atlanta, Georgia is home to many fortune 500 companies that attract international trade and business to the peach state. In fact, international news giant CNN headquarters’ are based in the southern metropolis. However, beyond the steel towers and sharply dressed business-people there is a dark underbelly that has been increasingly investigated and been slowly brought to the forefront.

Over the years, child sex trafficking has become rampant over the state of Georgia and nationwide. But in the state of Georgia, organizations like Youth-Spark have partnered with the state government to help bring an end to this horrific criminal underworld.

In the early 2000s, the organization began working with girls that were charged for prostitution. The average age of entry into prostitution is 12-14 years old even though the legal age of sexual consent in the Georgia is 16 years old.

Director Jennifer Swain explains that “historically, there are a lot of reasons Atlanta has attracted human trafficking. There are multiple conventions here that attract millions of people from around the country. Because Atlanta is the capitol city, there’s access to the ports of Savannah and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. There are also a lot of truck drivers that stop here in the metropolitan area.”

All these little pieces add up to create a massive bureaucratic problem that can’t be solved overnight. It occurs right under our noses. Social events in the 1990s, like “Freaknik”, involved  all forms of prostitution which eventually led to its inevitable demise.

Technology and the increased use of social media in our day and age has made sex trafficking easier and much harder to police. Online activity and sex trading happens in mid daylight yet there is still little awareness on the topic.

The Georgia Demand Study

Image

The key factor for this activity is the demand. In 2009, Youth-Spark decided to spearhead the Georgia Demand Study. They set up fake ads online, in magazines, and attracted unsuspecting johns into a sting operation to profile the types of people interested in such activities.  According to Swain, “the ads promoted young-cutesy-girls because young-cutesy-girls would get more clicks and more traffic. Warnings were sent to let them know that the girls were under age. 7200 men knowingly or unknowingly seek to purchase sex with adolescent girls.” They had willful ignorance and most of them continued through the process.

“When warned of purchasing an underage girl, 53% decided that they were not going to continue with the act. 47% continue with the purchase even though they were warned they would get a minor”, Swain informed.

Through the exercises and the sting operation, the Youth-Spark organization came to the realization that police officers needed to be trained for capturing and profiling johns. The reality is that the police is one of many public services that are being affected by governmental budget cuts. So the training may not become a reality anytime soon.

United States  Vs. International

Law enforcement, lawyers, and judges are unaware that domestic trafficking looks different than international human trafficking. One of the key differences is the culture in which we live. Americans believe that they are independent thinkers and masters of our own destinies. “We believe that if a girl is on the streets prostituting, it is her own freewill that guides her into that lifestyle but that is not the case and it is not always so simple to explain, ” states Swain.

The root of the issue shifts from the pimps, traffickers, and johns to the young girls that are being sold and paraded.

The second and most important factor is realizing that physical movement is not required to be trafficked. Swain adds that “changing the  word drug for human, the only thing that is different is the product. A young girl can be kidnapped and force to prostitute in the same locale, city, county, and state.”

Over the years,  the laws in Georgia has stiffen in regards to the pimps but the johns have been able to wiggle free to some degree. However, if an adult is caught having sex with a minor, he or she will be imprisoned. Georgia Attorney General, Sam Olens, have partnered with Youth-Spark to create the Georgia is Not Buying It campaign. This campaign hopes to extinguish human trafficking in Georgia.

The bulk of the trafficking legislation took place in 2011. State legislators continued with even more with recent laws taking affect January 1st of this year.

HB 200: Georgia’s Human Trafficking Law (effective July 1, 2011)

  • Recognized that victims of forced sexual servitude should not be treated as criminals
  • Allowed human trafficking victims to receive Crime Victims Compensation Funds to reimburse them for medical bills and counseling expenses
  • Required training for law enforcement on addressing human trafficking, appropriate detention for victims, and assistance available to victims
  • Increased penalties for trafficking, including 10-20 years in prison where the victim is over 18 years old and 25-50 years or life in prison in cases involving victims under 18 years of age; a fine up to $100,00 may also be imposed in all trafficking cases
  • Allowed the property of traffickers to be forfeited
  • Changed penalties for pimping, pandering, and keeping a place of prostitution if the victim is a minor; for cases involving a 16 0r 17 year old, the crime is a felony punishable by 5-10 years in prison and a fine of $2,500 to $10,000; if the victim is under 16, the crime is a felony punishable by 10-30 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000
  • Struck a balance between the need to treat victims of human trafficking as victims, rather than criminals,

*This article is just the beginning of a long series of articles that tackle human trafficking in the U.S and worldwide . Issues such as laws containing to human trafficking, survival sex, and gender will be tackled.            Image