Starting A Family as a Same Sex Couple
It’s a really big deal to wrestle with the idea of starting a family. It’s a huge decision for anyone, but it becomes even bigger for same-sex couples due to the amount of options to look through. Exploring all the options can be a major task in itself.
Legally and financially there are decisions, as well as decisions once you decide how to have the child. There are emotional conversations to have, and legal conversations to have - both of which are difficult. Luckily, there are also a lot of resources out there for you - websites like Modamily and consulting services - and also local LGBTQ+ centers that can provide workshops, counseling, and other resources to help with these life decisions.
Let’s go over some options you have for having a child.
What Are My Options For Starting A Family?
For many gay couples seeking a child, this is an awesome option. You can be biologically connected to your child without a heterosexual relationship. This does involve a lot of decision making, though.
Some things you will need to talk about with your partner is who will be the biological parent? Only one parent can be the genetic parent (the one whose sperm is used). If you cannot decide, some parents will use a mix of the sperm to leave it up to fate to see which sperm fertilizes the egg.
There are some legal barriers with surrogacy, as even for heterosexual couples, some states do not recognize surrogacy contracts. There may be ways to get around this, but it could require extra paperwork (and frustration) for LGBTQ couples to get legally recognized as the parent of their child. We suggest contacting an agency, like Modamily or others, to discuss surrogacy options with a professional.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Surrogacy for Gay Couples
- Becoming a parent! This is a dream for many gay couples that years ago felt impossible to complete. Now, it is an option to be a biological parent to your child.
- Creating meaningful relationships with the surrogate
- Legal complications with the surrogate and state laws
- High costs
- Discrimination or bias from surrogacy agencies
Egg and Sperm Donors
Sperm donors can be a great choice for lesbian same-sex couples. This way one of the parents can be the biological parent and go through a traditional pregnancy experience. This can be beneficial for breastfeeding, birthing decisions, and making sure the pregnancy is safe and handled with the utmost care. Also, and maybe most importantly, many women want to experience pregnancy and their sexual orientation should not get in the way of this experience.
A major decision in the donorship option is choosing a known or anonymous donor. Let’s walk through the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
The Decision: Known vs. Anonymous Donors
Using a known donor, sometimes referred to as an “open donor” has become increasingly popular in recent years for couples trying to start a family. When In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and artificial insemination were first being used, people didn’t want to use a known donor because of rare stories of children wanting to have a parental relationship with their donor and it going poorly, or other complications with the upbringing and relationships.
With societal changes and acceptance of different methods of fertility, these ideas are now pretty outdated. People are also finding that having the option of meeting the donor should they want can provide some much-needed flexibility.
Known Donor Advantages
- More Information about the donor
- Less Pricey
- Options for Similar Genetics
- Giving the Child a Sense of Identity
- Healthy Co-Parenting Relationships
Known Donor Disadvantages
- Co-parenting Conflicts
- Donor Change of Heart
- Donor May Feel Pressured
Anonymous Donor Advantages
- Peace of Mind in Anonymity
- No Potential for Co-Parenting Conflict
- Less Publicity
Anonymous Donor Disadvantages
- The Cost
- No Possibility for Future Communication
- Genetic Testing Technological Advancement
For more details on the pros/cons of anonymous vs known donors, check out our guide.
According to American Adoptions, same-sex couples are 4x more likely to be raising an adopted child than their heterosexual counterparts. Adoption is an excellent option for same-sex parents to achieve their parenting goals and dreams. Two million LGBTQ individuals are considering adoption.
There are barriers to entry though. Some same-sex parents still feel nervous about adoption because, until not too many years ago, same-sex adoption was still illegal in some states. This can be mentally a barrier for couples feeling like they are not welcome. But for the most part, the adoption process is legally nearly the same for same-sex and heterosexual couples.
One thing to recognize is that international adoption can be tricky for same sex parents because of LGBTQ+ laws in other countries. This is a frustrating barrier to many couples if they are looking to adopt overseas.
Myth: LGBTQ Adoption Effects the Child
There are some false ideas about how gay and lesbian adoption can impact the child. This is usually used as an argument for those individuals who do not believe in same-sex marriage. Studies have shown, though, that LGBTQ+ parents do not negatively impact the child. One benefit, even, is that the child grows up more accepting of different lifestyles and sexual orientations. Being exposed to this type of diversity from such an early age and in the comfort of their immediate home can be a huge benefit to a child.
Foster care is a protective child service for when families can’t care for their children for a variety of reasons. Fostering is a temporary home, but parents should plan to stay a part of the child’s life even after they are not their parent anymore.
Same-sex parents have a huge impact on the foster care system: they are six times more likely to raise a foster child than heterosexual couples. You can make a difference in both the child’s life and the foster system as a whole. Same-sex couples a lot of times connect very emotionally to the foster care children.
As someone who has likely been pegged as different or excluded from a traditional heterosexual lifestyle, couples can relate to the foster child more than a traditional couple.
The foster system is overflowing and lacks proper resources, so if you really want to make a difference in someone else's life as well as your own, fostering can be a magical option.
How Do I Start The Fostering Process?
There are many organizations who can help you get started. Fostering takes a little research on the regulations of your specific state. For example, here are the different agencies in Los Angeles.
You will have to become certified to be a foster parent in the United States. A great place to start is here at the Child Welfare Information Gateway by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Another great resource is the Adopt US Kids website.
Next, you are going to have to make contact with an agency. They may ask for some personal information to start the certification process. Be sure to contact several agencies because there is more than one option. Like finding a doctor or real estate agent you like, it's important to try several spots before settling down to one agency
After is an initial meeting, either in your home or at the agency, where a social worker will give you more information about becoming a licensed foster parent.
After is a home study or family assessment. The agency will ask you to complete social history and other questionnaires about your motivations, relationships with others, childhood, career, and more.
The next steps include background checks, references (usually three or more), home safety check, orientation and training, and finally licensing.
To recap, the process will go something like this:
- Agency research
- Agency initial meeting
- Family assessment (“home study”)
- Background checks
- Home safety check
- Orientation and training
What Are The Qualifications To Become A Foster Parent?
The biggest thing the child needs from you is to provide emotional and physical care to the child. They have likely been neglected and have some degree of trauma from being in “the system.” Most agencies have the minimum qualifications of the following:
- Provide a comfortable home 24-hours a day 7 days a week.
- Be financially stable enough to not rely solely on the child’s stipend.
- Be patient and understanding.
- Complete a criminal background check.
- Be a team player!
Foster care means more than just the relationship with the child. You will have to be prepared to get involved with social workers, schools, community resources, and foster care agencies. There are a lot of moving pieces and red tape to jump through.
Considerations for Same-Sex Couples Becoming Parents
Family structures can be linked heavily to identity and emotional imbalances. It can be draining to deal with discrimination against LGBTQ people and discrimination of people who dislike surrogacy or other “irregular” ways of parenting. In our society where familiar roles are very gendered, it can feel like there should be an obvious Mother and Father role. This can be an awkward or difficult conversation when there are two moms.
Furthermore, this is not a conversation for only same-sex parents. Heterosexual partners alike have to decide who is going to pick the kid up from soccer practice, who helps with his math homework, and who plays good cop or bad cop when it comes to discipline. Same-sex couples may have another degree of decision making, though, when it comes to those roles.
Cost of Second Parent Adoptions
Although it’s 2020, it may be hard to imagine that some states still do not allow two individuals of the same sex to be listed on the child’s birth certificate. Some of this is leftover from the wording not being updated since the 2015 Marriage Equality Act, but some states, unfortunately, still blatantly do not allow two parents of the same sex to sign. This means you may have to file and pay a somewhat hefty fee of a couple thousand dollars to be a second parent on the birth certificate.
We can also suggest a co-parenting agreement if this is not something financially viable for you.
There are tax benefits for having children that same-sex couples can take advantage of. The child tax credit is now around $2,000 depending on income and other factors. Since 2018, you can file for up to $1,4000 even if you don’t have any federal tax bills. You should talk with a professional tax accountant about the different tax brackets if this is of importance to you. It will benefit you financially on your taxes to have a child, although children are expensive!
Let’s talk more about the cost of having and raising a child. Children are expensive. This cannot be understated. The USDA estimates the cost to raise a child is around $250,000 until they are 18 (not including college). Add college tuition, daycare and babysitters, family trips, that car they are going to want, and more - it is a huge, huge financial burden to have a child.
Most parents, though, say that the joy and self worth they have found from raising a child cannot be condensed to a numerical amount in dollars.
Having A Non-Traditional Family Identity
Now that we have discussed the legal and paperwork-related steps to take when starting a family, let's transition over to the more emotional side of things: your family identity. Same-sex couples have barriers to face when it comes to identity and being a part of a “non-traditional” family structure. With the right support, having healthy conversations and means of communication, and involving outside services to help though the difficulties, a non-traditional family structure can be just another part of the journey to parenthood.
The Right Support
When starting your family, you want to have people to support you on this journey. The right support - from friends, family and resources - are vital. Friends and family who believe in you and support your goals will make the whole experience better. With a known donor, a friend or a family member could be a direct participant.
Having The Important Conversations
We understand it can be difficult to pursue a non-traditional family because although some may say things are more progressive, there are definitely still discriminatory people. There are conversations that need to happen between you and your partner, and with other people in your life. Let’s look at some situations.
How are you going to have kids?
This is an odd question to share because heterosexual couples dont have to be asked about their child-rearing methods. Remember this is your process and you don’t owe anyone an explanation when it comes to your personal life. People may want to get involved in your decisions and you have to be ready for this as you are starting a family. But again this is your choice not someone else's!
Other conversations that need to be had are between you and your partner. Earlier in this article we talked about surrogacy and sperm donorship where one person can be the biological parent. This is a huge decision since it's obviously irreversible and makes a big difference for the child: what genes they are born with. You will also have to decide together the many options to have a child: adoption, surrogacy, donorship, or fostering.
Here at Modamily, we support you in your journey to parenthood. Our turn key service, Modamily Concierge can provide the resources you need to have a safe, easy, non-traditional family rearing experience. We can connect you with potential donors, potential co-parents are more on our service. As easy as a social media app, the familiar interface will make you comfortable.
Read more about Modamily here.