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Adoption

Choosing to provide a home to one of the many children who need one can be incredibly rewarding. But in NSW same-sex couples are not yet treated on a par with heterosexual couples when it comes to adoption. A combination of discriminatory laws and prejudicial attitudes of certain adoption agencies makes it harder, but not impossible, for same sex couples to adopt a child.

What is adoption?

Adoption is one of a range of options used to provide care for children who can’t live with their birth families.

It is a legal process; it is long term and permanent. All legal rights and responsibilities of parents are transferred from the birth parents to the adoptive parents.

Adoption has a long history in our society and there are many views, attitudes and opinions held about it.

The practice of adoption has changed much in recent years. Adoption legislation and practice have evolved to better reflect our present society and both are based on the knowledge gained from those who have been touched by adoption.

Current practice recognises that although adoption ends a child’s legal relationship with birth parents, the emotional and genetic relationships remain. Adoption today embraces issues of identity, openness and the value of a child’s cultural and racial heritage.

The NSW Department of Community Services (DOCS) provides adoption placements, as do a small number of non-government agencies. DOCS is a good first port of call for information (see its website). Adoption involves a process of applying, being assessed and, if found to be suitable, being placed on a waiting list until a matched child becomes available. This process can take some time.

General eligibility criteria for adoptive parents include: psychological, emotional and financial stability, a clear criminal record and good reputation, Australian citizenship, and a willingness to assist the child to have contact with the birth family in the future. If you are in a relationship it must be at least three years in length. If there are any other children being cared for in your family they should usually be two or more years older than the child to be adopted. You or your partner cannot be pregnant or in a fertility program.

Although Western Australia and the ACT now permit same-sex de facto couples to apply to adopt a child, NSW does not (the DOCS website misleadingly says “de facto couples” are eligible without specifying that it means only heterosexual couples). Lesbians and gay men cannot apply as couples in NSW, but are still able to apply as “individual” applicants. This means that both partners are still assessed for suitability but only one partner will be the legal parent if a child is placed with you. Since 2000 there is no formal preference for couples over individual applicants in NSW law (again the DOCS website is wrong on this), but relinquishing parent preferences and overseas law may still mean a lower priority in the waiting list.

For more info from Dept of Community Services

Adopting locally

DoCS is the government department responsible for the provision of adoption services in NSW. They work with birth parents who are considering adoption for their child and families who wish to adopt.

The department is responsible for locating the most suitable families for adopted children to ensure the best interests of the child both in childhood and later life.

For more info click below

Other Local Adoption Agencies:

There are a number of accredited adoption agencies who also provide adoption services in NSW.

You may express interest with a number of agencies or programs, but you can only have an application with one program at one time.

Adopting from Overseas: Intercountry Adoptions

Intercountry adoptions are now far more common than domestic adoptions in Australia, making up around three-quarters of adoptions in recent years. Such adoptions must satisfy the requirements of the Hague Adoption Convention, which requires eligibility for adoptive parents to be agreed upon by both the child’s country of origin and the country in which they are adopted. At the moment none of the current “sending” countries allow same-sex couples to adopt (although note that when South Africa begins intercountry adoptions, as it is expected to do in the near future, it does recognise same-sex couples as eligible to adopt).

Some sending countries such as China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Hong Kong allow an individual applicant to adopt. (Ethiopia will only accept female individual applicants.) The DOCS website notes that the current waiting time for a couple accepted to adopt a child from China is seven and a half months, but for individual applicants it is three years. Just because Angelina Jolie can jet in and out in a week doesn’t mean that anyone else can. The process of assessment is complex, and adoptions must be undertaken in Australia and approved by DOCS for the child to be permitted to enter Australia.

The current cost from DOCS is $10,700 for assessment and placement of a child for intercountry adoption. Other expenses such as legal advice, visas and so on mean that the total cost can be much higher.

In 2004 the Howard government tried to ban any state agency from providing intercountry adoption to a same-sex couple. This was part of the first bill to ban same-sex marriage. The adoption ban was dropped from the law after opposition parties said they would block it in the Senate. However, it is entirely possible that it will be reintroduced now that the government controls the Senate, and some backbenchers have already called for this to happen. If passed it would mean that lesbians and gay men in Australia could not adopt a child from overseas even as individual applicants.

DoCS is currently the only agency in NSW which can arrange intercountry adoption.
Who can adopt from overseas?

DoCS considers many factors when selecting parents for overseas children, including their parenting abilities, character and family situation.

See eligibility criteria

For more info click below

Information for this page has been sourced from an Article titled “Can I Adopt Or Foster A Child? by Jenni Millbank featured in the Sydney Star Observer Issue 793 - Published 1/12/2005

Related Articles

Adoption Lawyers

We will hopefully be able to provide this information soon.

 


Co-parenting

As interest in Gay Dads NSW grows we are finding that there are an increasing number of co-parenting arrangements. It is important to consider at an early stage just what type of involvement you want to have with the children you father. There are those whose interest extends no further than being a known sperm donor, with no responsibilities to the child thereafter. Some guys are happy to assume limited responsibilities once the child is born, taking on a role similar to that of an uncle. For others the choice may be to share all responsibility equally with the mums, in terms of caring for the child at home, financial responsibilities, making choices for the child’s future and upbringing, assuming legal rights of a primary caregiver etc.  There are endless variations in between and it is important that when entering into any such arrangement you do so with ‘co-mums’ who share your outlook and ambitions in terms of how responsibility for the child/ children will be managed.

Finding a co-parent?

It is a fairly common scenario for a gay man/couple to be approached by a friend, maybe a lesbian (single or couple), to act as a known donor, with or without an active parental role once the child is born. Other men have been introduced to their co-mums by a mutual friend.

However, for some guys this scenario does not present itself and the desire to co-parent encourages them towards a more pro-active means of finding suitable co-mum(s).

Some online community noticeboards, such as the Pink Board, have a classified section where you will often find women advertising for known donors. There is likewise the option for gay men to put their own adverts in lesbian magazines, such as LOTL, inviting contact from interested women.

A more recent option is the yahoo online group where men gay men and lesbians wanting to parent children can make contact. The web group offers the facility for individuals to post personal detail in the hope of finding other suited couples and thereafter exploring the potential for entering into a co-parenting arrangement.

When considering a co-parenting arrangement, be it with friends or new acquaintances, it is a good idea to talk openly about your hopes and aspirations and also your own lifestyle and family background/history (including medical history). Potentially this will impact on your child/children and it is important to establish compatibility at an early stage.

The options detailed here range from co-parenting arrangements arising out of friendships to those which originate between couples unknown but connected by a shared ambition to become parents. There are different considerations to be borne in mind depending upon whether the co-parents are long-term friends or new acquaintances and again it is best to give thought to potential difficulties that might arise from your relationship with the co-parents, at an early stage.

Co-parents coming to an agreement

Again, opinion differs as to how formalised co-parenting arrangements should be. In some instances everything is agreed verbally with nothing committed to a written agreement; clearly this relies on a great deal of trust between all parties to ensure success. To the other extreme the arrangement can be tightly bound into a written agreement, thereby formalising as many aspects of the co-parenting arrangement as can be foreseen. In this way all parties to the arrangement are clear as to their responsibilities, rights and obligations. And of course between these two extremes there is much scope for whatever is best suited to your particular situation. Clearly the best option is whatever is best suited to the needs of all involved, so that everyone is comfortable in the arrangement.

The process of writing a written agreement in itself can be a useful one as a means of assisting all parents to think about and articulate their needs and/or expectations of the arrangement. This can also help prevent disputes arising in the future. Written agreements relating to co-parenting situations are not legally enforceable in Australia. However, the existence of a written agreement, to which all parties had consented, is useful as evidence of each person’s intentions and would be regarded as much in an Australian court of law.

Be aware that expectations and circumstances may change so try to allow for scope within your agreement to cater for that.

Each individual/couple will have his/her own matters for consideration but these are just a few common issues for thought:

  • How will the child refer to each of the parents? (Mum? Dad? Use of Christian name?). This is of particular consideration in situations where there are two couples to an arrangement and therefore include a non-birth mother and co-father. “Mum” and “Dad” are often obvious choices in relation to the biological parents but it is important to ensure that the non-biological mum and dad are not left to feel like bystanders to the whole experience.

  • Who will be present at the birth? (Bear in mind that this is ultimately a choice for the biological mother although there is no harm in discussing the point).

  • Who is responsible for taking key decisions in the child’s up-bringing. Such decisions range from the child’s name to their education (formal and informal), religious instruction, etc.

  • How is financial responsibility for the upbringing of the child to be managed?

  • How much contact will each parent have with the child? Starting when and how often?

  • Will the child have a relationship with members of his/her extended families? In return, how will your own families react to your new family unit?

  • What happens if one parent decides to move interstate / overseas? Do you have a duty to consult each other in advance about such decisions?

  • In the event of serious illness / injury / death of one of the primary caregivers what arrangements would you want in place for the care of the child? This is particularly relevant in arrangements where you have not assumed equal responsibility for the raising of the child. Suddenly you may find that more is expected of you; how will you react? In the event that you are prepared to assume greater responsibility in raising the child are their legal obstacles that you will need to overcome?

  • If disagreements between the co-parents arise how would you propose to deal with them?

  • How would you deal with a situation in which your child, in adolescence, wishes to change the arrangements you have made?

Of course this is not an exhaustive list and no one list fits all. Likewise it is impossible to envisage every eventuality that is going to arise; we are human, not robots. The important thing is to give your particular situation careful and considered thought. Ultimately the success or failure of the co-parenting arrangement will impact upon the child and their interests are paramount.

Read through Talking Turkey 2nd Edition on the Inner City Legal Centre website for suggested forms of agreements. It is a very useful information tool for those considering co-parenting.

Getting started with making babies

Once you reach the stage of ‘making baby’ there are (again) a number of options; you can provide sperm using the services of a fertility clinic or in the privacy of your own home where the birth mother can self-inseminate. There is no right way / wrong way; again it is down to personal circumstances and preference. Some consider a clinical environment to be safer and healthier whilst others consider the intimacy of their own home to be more appropriate to the situation.

If using a clinic the sperm will need to be deposited, tested and quarantined for six months and then retested and it is important to factor this time into your planning. Paperwork will be required; it is important to request a copy of all forms and read them before signing.

When choosing home insemination it is advisable that general and sexual health testing is undertaken beforehand and the test results exchanged amongst the co-parents. Home insemination is not something that can be carried out on the spur of the moment and it is important to plan well ahead and ensure that timing is convenient for all parties involved. To optimise chances of successful insemination there are certain steps that can be taken by the sperm donor in the days preceding (abstinence from sex, drugs and alcohol). It is advisable to read up on specific advice to ensure that sperm is fresh, healthy and handled/exchanged hygienically.

Many gay men considering fatherhood have commented on the benefits of attending group dinners, info nights and asking questions online. If you would like to join either of the online discussion groups, you can access those via the following links:

If you have any further enquiries or have additional information which you think could be added then please feel free to communicate your thoughts to …..


Fostering options

Foster care is provided to children and young people who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to live with their own families.

Adoption difficulties may make long-term foster care placement, particularly of older children, a more realistic alternative than adoption for many lesbians and gay men wishing to parent.

There is a much greater need for foster carers than for adoptive parents in Australia. DOCS states that carers “can be an individual, couple or family, any age or gender and can be living in a range of different situations”. The need for carers to take older children and sibling groups is particularly acute. DOCS states that it also particularly needs foster parents who are Aboriginal and from various cultural backgrounds, as it tries to match children with carers who are culturally appropriate.

In addition to DOCS, several non-government agencies provide foster care placements. Be warned that virtually all of the non-government providers are religious. Some, such as Barnardos, have a history of treating same-sex couples equally and with respect. Others, such as Wesley Mission, have been openly hostile to lesbians and gay men.

Many agencies specialise in different kinds of placements, for instance in children aged 2-12, or adolescents, or children with disabilities. DOCS has a list of providers on their website with links you can access to find out some more information about them.

The stated aim of foster care is to return children eventually to their families of origin. One of the required qualities in a foster carer is “the ability to say goodbye when the time comes for families to be reunited”. Nonetheless there are many long-term foster care placements. Sometimes children are eventually adopted by the foster parent.

To become a foster parent, you must go through an assessment and then, if found to be eligible, a training process. Different agencies list various eligibility criteria such as: a clear criminal record, previous experience in child rearing, a stable and secure environment, stable relationship status, and the ability to provide the child their own room. If a child is placed, foster parents are provided with on-going training and support as well as economic assistance.

Foster Care Agencies

DOCS Foster Info link

If you're interested in becoming a foster carer, call your local DoCS office.

Other foster care agencies include:

Information for this page has been sourced from an Article titled “Can I Adopt Or Foster A Child?   by Jenni Millbank featured in the Sydney Star Observer Issue 793 - Published 1/12/2005


Previous or Current Relationships

Gay men who are fathers and are currently in or were previously in a heterosexual relationship have a great opportunity to share their experiences with others going through or that have gone through similar circumstances.

Gay Dads NSW gives fathers the opportunity to meet, socialise and offer and receive support from others with children who are, or have been previously involved in a heterosexual relationship. Giving them the opportunity to offer advice and discuss issues.

The group also offer the children of gay men the opportunity to meet, play and build friendships and peer support with other children in similar family environments. Events such as, group picnics, monthly playgroup for pre-schoolers and GDAY monthly outings for school age kids are available for kids of gay dads.

Although our group has a focus on issues of fatherhood and social activities for the fathers as well as the children there is another community group in NSW that supports men who identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual and who are, or have been previously involved in a heterosexual relationship, irrespective of whether have children or not. That group is GAMMA.

The Gay and Married Men's Association NSW is a group of offers support and advice to married and bisexual men in New South Wales. The group has been running in its present format for 5 years, having been established some 18 years ago. During this period, many thousands of men have benefited from their introduction to GAMMA.

The group recently established a social group (GAMMA CONNECT) to provide for those members who, having worked through their personal issues, seek to stay in regular contact with other like minded members of the group and provides the further opportunity to introduce those involved to the wider Gay & Lesbian community. This group meets monthly for social events, including safe sex education forums and other activities.

GAMMA NSW Inc. is funded by the NSW government (South East Area Health Service) as part of their Aids prevention and safe sex awareness programs.

For more information about the group click on the following link


Surrogacy

Gay dads who want sole parenting rights, rather than a co-parenting agreement with the birth mother, are increasingly turning to surrogacy, a process whereby a woman agrees to carry the child usually using a donor egg.

Currently surrogacy is illegal in Australia. For more information NSW laws pertaining to this issue read the article linked below:

This is why many gay men are pursuing legal surrogacy in the USA and Canada.
It is of course also possible to find a surrogate in Australia but it is viewed as problematic in terms of the laws in Australia.

There are two types of surrogacy - traditional and gestational.

With traditional, the surrogate donates her eggs and is the birth mother, while with gestational an egg donor is chosen by the intending parent(s) and the eggs are implanted in the birth mother. The intended parent (the father or father’s) sperm is used (fresh or frozen).

Think of it in the same way as mothers seeking a "donor", but in reverse. The child is also 100% legally the father(s), and in the US the court papers and the birth certificate typically reflect this. There may or may not be onward going contact between the surrogate and the child. This is open to negotiation between the parties.
If the father’s fresh sperm is used multiple trips to the US or Canada may be necessary. If the father’s frozen sperm is used the number of trips is minimised. The sperm is stored in a sperm bank in the US or Canada, and is accessed for inseminations when needed by the fertility clinic or medical facility.

The surrogacy agencies are involved in the screening processes of both potential fathers and surrogates, the potential matching between the parties, the legal aspects and the co-ordination of it all. It is something that an individual could also undertake themselves without using a surrogacy agency (though it would be time intensive and difficult from a distance).

Typically a registration fee is payable to the surrogacy agency at the start of the process, and a trust account is established, out of which the agency pays onward going expenses. Contracts are signed between the various parties, and in the US in particular legal representation is necessary. A large part of the fees payable in the US goes to cover the mandatory health insurance for the surrogate. In Canada the public health system covers these expenses.

The Los Angeles based surrogacy agency Growing Generations is probably the largest of the US West Coast agencies focusing exclusively on the gay market. Their website is very informative. The Canadian agencies are typically in Ontario. Not all of the North American agencies will deal with gay men, but some specialise in this market. Below is a list of surrogacy and egg donors agencies with contact details.

t is worth checking the reputation of different agencies through requesting testimonials and seeking referrals. Surrogacy is an expensive option, and the agency plays a central role in the process. As the client you need to reassure yourself that they are 100% trustworthy, have an established reputation, a client service ethic, and that you could work with them over an extended period of time.

Like the traditional way of getting pregnant, traditional and gestational surrogacy do not always work on the first try, or indeed on subsequent tries. For every story of a gay father or fathers becoming parents on the first try there are similar stories where there are multiple attempts. While surrogacy is more “planned” and uses more “science” than traditional pregnancy, it is still an imprecise art.

Note that with gestational surrogacy the chances of multiple births is greater than the chances of multiple births with traditional surrogacy and the traditional way of getting pregnant. There are plenty of stories of gay men using gestational surrogacy who end up the father or fathers of twins or triples!

Information on returning to Australia with your child born through surrogacy is available. It includes a checklist of pointers that need to be done prior to bringing a child back to Australia (birth certificates, passports, visas, social security cards, permission to travel). Information is also available on how to apply for Australian citizenship and a passport for your child once back in Australia.

Surrogacy is a very large industry in the United States. Here are some tips and questions to help screen the agencies:

  • Compare their prices with the prices of agencies like www.surrogatemothers.com and www.growinggenerations.com (among others).

  • Ask how long they have been established

  • Ask how many births that they have had

  • Ask for current/previous client references (say 3-4 so you get a range of perspectives).

  • Interview the principals of the agency in person or by videoconference. This would assist your 'feel' for the agency.

Surrogacy

Growing Generations (specializes in helping gay families. Also offers egg donation services)
5757 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 601
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Phone: 323-965-7500
Fax: 323-965-0900
Email: family@growinggenerations.com
http://www.growinggenerations.com

Agency For Surrogacy Solutions, Inc.
Attn: Kathryn Manos, M.A.
Phone 1: 818-766-8086
Phone 2: 800-799-8773 (outside So. California)
Fax: 818-766-8392
Email: agency4solutions@aol.com
http://www.agency4solutions.com

Canadian Surrogacy Options
218 Silvercreek Pkwy. N.
Suite 235
Guelph, ON N1H8E8 CANADA
Attn: Joanne Wright
Phone 1: (519) 767-1171
Phone 2: (519) 829-9698 (Cell)
Fax: (519) 767-2392
Email: Joanne@CanadianSurrogacyOptions.com
http://www.CanadianSurrogacyOptions.com

Center for Surrogate Parenting (also offers egg donation services)
15821 Ventura Blvd., Suite 675
Encino, CA 91436
Phone: 818 788-8288
Fax: 818 981-8287
Email: Centersp@aol.com
http://www.creatingfamilies.com

Cori's Egg Donor & Surrogate Services (also offers egg donation services)
2112 Glencoe Drive
Lemon Grove, CA 91945
Phone: (619) 463-9110
Fax: (619) 463-3122
Email: CBfromSD@aol.com
http://www.coriseggdonorservices.com

Ova the Rainbow (also offers egg donation services)
P.O. Box 187
Stevinson, CA 95374
Attn: Kendis Argo
Phone: 209-669-8556
Fax: 775-307-9948
Email:kendis@ovatherainbow.com
http://www.ovatherainbow.com

Surrogate Mothers Online, LLC - Virtual Meeting Ground for the Surrogacy Community
http://www.surromomsonline.com
Website providing information and support to individuals who are interested in pursuing a surrogacy or egg/sperm donor arrangement.

Egg Donor Agencies

 

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