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Archive for June, 2010

Sydney Morning Herald – “Archaic Attitudes Leave Children Out in the Cold” by Senthorun Raj

Senthorun Raj who is the Policy and Development co-ordinator of the NSW Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby has written an interest piece in relation to the current NSW Bill relating to Same Sex Adoption. 

"It is in the best interests of children to have both a mother and a father." In a society where marriage, heterosexuality and family are so closely intertwined, such a simple, albeit cliched, statement would seem uncontroversial. In fact, the idea of a mother and a father in a married relationship carries such political and cultural currency that it is hard to imagine having children in circumstances that do not fit neatly under the matrimonial rubric. So how do we then manage to contemplate a family unit that is not only unmarried, but has two mums or two dads?

Adoption laws should be reformed to give equality to same-sex couples.

In moving to recognise the status of existing and potential same-sex families, the recently introduced Adoption Amendment (Same-Sex Couples) Bill removes the last piece of legislative discrimination against same-sex couples in NSW. The basic rationale behind this Bill is that the sexuality of prospective parents should not be a determinative factor when it comes to protecting the welfare of children.

In NSW, the Adoption Act currently uses an archaic heterosexual definition of "de facto", "spouse" and "partner" to preclude same-sex couples eligibility to be considered to adopt. Adoption is not a right. However, the legislative barriers in the Adoption Act send out a troubling social message that a person’s non-heterosexual orientation necessarily makes them an inadequate parent. It is unsurprising then that homophobic ideas that conflate pedophilia and homosexuality continue to exist, when the law itself seems to implicitly connect gay or lesbian parents as potential risks to children.

Discriminatory rhetoric used in protecting children is not new. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families have suffered the forcible removal of children. The commonly referred to "stolen generations" represents an era of government policy that imputed a lack of parenting ability to persons of an indigenous heritage. While such a racially motivated policy is now rightly met with abhorrence and apology, why does the NSW government continue to promote a construct of parenting that disenfranchises same-sex families?

While not contesting the value of the typical nuclear family, part of the problem with our understanding of parenting is the overemphasis of gender. Feminist politics has laboured across generations to contest the popular idea that women bear the primary responsibility or desire for raising children because of their reproductive anatomy. As surprising as this may be to some, not all women want to be mothers. The association between motherhood and nurturing, or fatherhood and discipline, reveals more about our limited cultural stereotypes than any gendered natural predispositions.

Social research on families ably demonstrates that it is the processes of parenting, rather than the family structure that matters. Credible psychological studies discern that children in same-sex families do not demonstrate any important differences in development, happiness, peer relations and adjustment.

Adoption often evokes the image of a mother giving her child to unknown parents. Despite the prevalence of this image in our cultural imaginary, this form of adoption accounts for only a very small percentage of adoptions in NSW. Adoption reform will have the most significant impact on the already 1500 children living in same-sex families in NSW (what is referred to as "known adoption").

If a child is unable to have both their parents legally recognised, they will be denied rights, entitlements and benefits associated with the non-legal parent. This includes automatic rights to inheritance, superannuation benefits or worker’s compensation. Parentage also ensures custody and contact for parents upon relationship breakdown, including child support obligations on a non-resident parent. The Bill also amends definitions of "step-parent" to to include same-sex couples and this will ensure children have greater certainty around their care and welfare.

Perhaps what makes the government policy situation to parenting in NSW more confusing is that same-sex couples are able (even encouraged) to foster children by the NSW government. Minister for Community Services Linda Burney has endorsed parenting by same-sex couples: "Lesbian and gay foster carers make a highly valued contribution to the NSW out-of-home care service system."

Despite considerable praise for same-sex parenting for vulnerable and displaced children, the NSW law denies these children the durability of having their relationship to their foster parents recognised. Permanency planning, which places children in long-term foster care, continues to be undermined, as children fostered by same-sex couples are then denied the security of adoption. Parenting orders that empower foster carers with parenting responsibilities expire once the child becomes 18, effectively terminating the legal parent-child relationship.

With the NSW government claiming it is committed to the most vulnerable groups in our society, particularly children, how can disallowing same-sex couple adoption be conducive to this agenda?

Even in the case of unknown adoptions, permitting same-sex couples eligibility for consideration does not undermine the rights of children or other potential parents. Relinquishing parents should have the broadest possible range of options for their children. The adoption process is intricately guided by the consent and wishes of the relinquishing parents. It should be left to the relinquishing parents to decide on the best place and parents for their child from the widest possible diversity of families.

Adoption reform is not foreign territory in Australia. Western Australia, the ACT and Tasmania (in specific circumstances) already permit same-sex couples eligibility to adopt children.

Equality and non-discrimination before the law are universal rights, not selective privileges. Passing the Adoption Amendment (Same-Sex Couples) Bill will not only benefit children, and existing same-sex families, it will also send an important social message that people should be judged on their individual merits, not on their sexual orientation.

Families come in all shapes and sizes. It is not the lack of a mother or father that should concern us. Rather, it is the continued stigmatisation of same-sex parenting and denying legal recognition to same-sex families that undermines the best interests of children.

Senthorun Raj is policy and development co-ordinator of the Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby.

[Source: Original Article]

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The Australian – “Birth of a booming baby industry” by Amanda Hodge

THOUSANDS of foreigners are travelling to India in an attempt to conceive a child.

AFTER six miscarriages, years of failed in-vitro fertilisation treatments and endless queues at Australian and international adoption agencies, Megan Sorensen is finally expecting a baby this week, at age 43.

Like an anxious father-to-be, Sorensen (not her real name) will pace the corridors of New Delhi’s Phoenix Hospital while a woman she met six days ago and knows only as Rani goes through childbirth for her.

Once delivered, the baby will almost immediately be handed over to Sorensen. And Rani, when she has recovered from her labour, will return to her own flat, her husband and two children.

In New Delhi the same process will be repeated several dozen times over for Australian couples before the year is out. Childless Australian couples — heterosexual and gay — are looking to Indian women who are prepared to rent out their wombs for the chance to improve the lives and fortunes of their own families.

Delhi fertility specialist Shivani Sachdev Gour says she has seen an explosion of Australian clients as word of her service has spread through the community of couples exploring surrogacy options.

Since the first Australian couple walked through the door of her low-key clinic last year, she now sees at least 10 new Australians every month who have travelled to India — many of them for the first time — in a last-ditch effort to conceive a child.

"Of 100 surrogates on my books, 55 are pregnant and more than 50 per cent of those children will be born Australian babies," Gour says. "Most of the [commissioning parents] have done IVF in Australia and been advised by their specialists that surrogacy is their best option."

Her first successful Australian birth came just three weeks ago, to a single man who came to India for two days of treatment, gave a sperm sample on the day the donor eggs were collected, and nine months later collected his baby.

Unlike some Indian fertility specialists, Gour says helping aspiring single or gay parents conceive a child poses no ethical dilemmas for her. She’s vehement when confronted with the criticism that using a poor, often ill-educated woman to incubate a wealthy woman’s child amounts to exploitation. "Just because the [surrogate] is poor it doesn’t mean she’s not allowed to make her own decisions," she says. "The Supreme Court of India says surrogacy is an industry."

Indeed it is. More than 100 operators turned over an estimated $US445 million ($514m) last year.

But, for some, India’s reputation as the world’s baby factory for foreign women unable, or unwilling, to pay Western surrogate fees is a grotesque commercialisation of the reproductive system.

Sorensen has heard all the arguments before. "People say really nasty things, that we’re selfish for wanting our own child," she says. "What really gets me is when they accuse us of going to India to buy a baby like it’s an easy process. It’s not." She calculates the whole process — including one failed effort and one miscarriage — will have cost more than $90,000 by the time their baby is delivered. Of that, Rani will receive $5000.

While thousands of foreign children have been delivered by Indians without incident, several cases — including the death of a surrogate during childbirth last year — have scarred the industry. The woman, a second wife, was pressured by her husband to become a surrogate to earn more money for the family. And in 2008 the industry faced a scandal when a Japanese couple broke up before their child was born, leaving the baby in danger of becoming India’s first surrogate orphan.

India’s minister for women and child development Renuka Chowdhury warned two years ago: "We do not want surrogacy to become unfettered like the organ trade. We need to put a regulatory authority in place."

Draft legislation governing the entire assisted reproductive industry — IVF, sperm and egg donations and surrogacy — is to be debated in parliament within months. If passed, it will legalise surrogacy services for couples and single people and provide a loophole for gay couples by allowing one partner to register as a single parent on the birth certificate.

Surrogacy clinics will be forbidden from recruiting and acting for surrogate mothers, who will instead be represented by a third party. The law also will forbid a commercial surrogate from carrying more than five babies in her lifetime, including her own.

Australian law further stipulates that a child born overseas of a surrogate mother must have a DNA link to at least one of the commissioning parents.

Gautam Allahbadia, who helped draft the bill, says he expects it to pass with little trouble after five years of debate and amendments.

The Mumbai-based fertility specialist says India is an ideal surrogacy destination; Indian women rarely drink or smoke and the country offers "First World medical services at Third World prices".

But National Federation of Indian Women president Annie Raja fears the new law will lead to the exploitation of more poor and lower caste women. "This country has one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates. Nobody is thinking about the mental or physical health of these women. It’s all about money," she says.

At Gour’s clinic money seems the furthest thing from Sorensen’s mind as she clucks over her young surrogate. Sorensen is ebullient and awestruck. Rani seems overwhelmed. Both women are close to tears. Through a translator Rani says she is "a little nervous" about the labour and concedes giving up the baby she has carried for 37 weeks, but has no biological link to, will probably be painful.

But she says: "It’s a few hours of sadness for me and a lifetime of happiness for Sorensen."

Asked if she would do it again she doesn’t hesitate; "One hundred per cent."

But she looks uncomfortable when asked to explain how being a surrogate will improve her family’s fortunes. For 10 months Rani has had a driver, maid and food delivery service, her rent and all family medical bills paid. When the baby is delivered she will receive 200,000 rupees ($4981), one-tenth the price of the most cut-rate US surrogate. For many Indian surrogate mothers all the attention that comes with carrying a wealthy woman’s baby ends soon after the child is delivered. But Sorensen says she is determined to make a difference to Rani’s life by helping her buy a home and paying for her children’s education. "I feel very maternal towards Rani," she says. "She’s part of our baby-making team."

[Source: Original Article]

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SMH – “Thinking men and women need clear conscience on gay adoption“ by Lisa Prior

A sensible and well balanced piece by Lisa Prior in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age today.  A copy of the NSW Adoption Bill is available

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Those gays are after the children again. On Thursday Clover Moore introduced a bill into Parliament which would allow same-sex couples to adopt. Both major parties will allow their members a conscience vote on the issue after the winter break. And it is indeed a matter of conscience.

In a parliamentary inquiry conducted last year, a majority found that the Adoption Act should be amended to allow gay couples to adopt. Faith-based adoption agencies would still have the right to exclude prospective parents who are gay, so long as they refer them to an agency which will assist.

This follows the lead of Western Australia and the ACT which already give gay couples equal access to the adoption process. Even in Tasmania gay couples can adopt a child related to one of them. In every state gay couples can foster.

Reform is opposed by church adoption agencies and many church groups. Trawling through the submissions to the parliamentary inquiry yesterday, I felt awe at the special kind of faith of some of the groups standing in judgment of gay families, making accusations about promiscuity, abuse, violence and communicable disease.

These flimsy and alarmist accusations were rather ironic coming from organisations which have been implicated in well-documented systemic abuse relating specifically to adoption and foster care, such as the mistreatment of child migrants, the stolen generations and the removal of babies from young mothers without proper consent.

Stereotyping all religious people because of the sins of a few is no better than stereotyping all gay people. Instead let’s consider the facts.

Adoption is not what it used to be. The scenario of the teen mother relinquishing her newborn is pretty much a thing of the past. Here are the statistics about adoption cited in the inquiry, statistics which are scary for anyone whose baby-making fall back plan is: ”It’s OK. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just adopt.”

”In 2007-08 … 125 adoption orders were finalised in NSW. Of those adoptions, 73 were inter-country. Of the remaining 52 local adoptions, 15 were unknown and 37 were known. Known adoptions for this period [comprised] 10 step-parent, 22 foster carer, three other relatives and two special case adoptions.”

In other words, most local adoptions involve children who already have a relationship with a carer, and adoption is about making that relationship permanent and secure.

The bill introduced this week is mostly about allowing gay foster parents, and gay step-parents, to provide the children in their care with stability and protection of permanent adoption.

It is also about providing children with the benefits of having two parents. As Moore noted on Thursday: ”Currently a child can’t be adopted by their parent’s same-sex partner yet can be adopted by their parent’s heterosexual partner,” she said. ”Unlike heterosexual couples, same-sex couples can’t adopt a child together – one parent must adopt as an individual and the other has no legal standing as the co-parent, leaving their child in legal limbo.”

Interestingly, one of the agencies in favour of allowing gay adoption is Barnardos. It specialises in the difficult side of fostering and adoption, often involving older children who have been victims of abuse and neglect.

As it said in its submission to the inquiry, it facilitates fostering by gay couples: ”Barnardos currently has seven children placed with two gay and two lesbian couples, all of whom have a care plan of adoption. The carers have provided excellent parenting for these children, all of whom have made pleasing and significant progress in areas of their physical, social and emotional development and who have developed a secure and positive attachment to each of their carers.”

So much for the cliche about flippant gays wanting designer babies as fashion accessories, a cliche repeated this year when the former US presidential candidate Mike Huckabee argued against gay adoption by saying ”children are not puppies”.

When it comes to voting on this legislation, the real issue facing our elected representatives is whether it is conscionable to try to send some vague message about preferred family structure by making the lives of children living in gay families more difficult and less secure. And this truly is a matter of conscience.

[Source: Original Article]

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MCV – “Home is where the heart is” by Andrew Shaw

This is a lovely piece on Gay men as foster carers, an area that gets very little press in Australia.  It is wonderful to hear a wonderful story like this.

Do gay men make good foster carers? Andrew Shaw talks to a teenager who’s found a loving and supportive home.

Two developments recently raised the profile of foster caring in our state. The first concerns those in our community interested in applying to care for a child. The Guidelines for Recruiting and Supporting Gay and Lesbian Carers was produced by the 17-year-old Victorian Foster Care Recruitment Project – and the news is good. In a nutshell: there are not enough foster carers out there and recruiters are being urged to “re-think the family”. According to the guidelines, Victoria needs 1,000 foster carers – approximately twice as many as there are now – and gays and lesbians fit the bill perfectly.

The guidelines dispel many myths and falsehoods about homosexuals. For example, ‘Gay men are more likely to abuse children’. The guidelines assert that credible scientific evidence proves this to be untrue. ‘Gay men and lesbians don’t have stable relationships and cannot provide a nurturing home’ – family process rather than structure is what determines outcomes, according to the guidelines. Most of us have heard these ‘child abuse’ and ‘unstable lifestyle’ prejudices before, but it is notable that foster care agencies are now being encouraged actively to look at gay men and women as foster carers.

The second recent development bringing foster care to national media attention is the release of an Ombudsman Victoria report into ‘out of home’ care. Children and young people at risk of abuse or neglect can be placed in out of home care by child protection services for varying amounts of time. According to the Ombudsman report, in 2008-09 just under 8,000 Victorian children experienced an out of home care placement. The report states emphatically that there are not enough foster carers and children in the system are at risk from physical and sexual abuse.

The report found that “while small-scale group accommodation units (called ‘residential care units’) are still utilised out of necessity, they are generally not the preferred placement model for children. The system has progressively become more reliant on full-time volunteers who care for children in their own homes.”

On the face of it these two developments – the Ombudsman flagging the need for more foster carers, and the release of guidelines for recruiting gays and lesbians as carers – complement each other. But what is the experience of a child brought up by a gay man? Will he miss the input of his original family? Will he turn out gay? To find answers to these and other questions I got in contact with staff at the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, who put me in touch with a teenager living in foster care.

Jayden (pictured) turns 18 in August. He’s doing his VCE this year, is into basketball and has lived with Steve and Brendan – his dads – since he was a child. Actually, he says he doesn’t call them ‘dad’ to their faces, but if people ask him about his family, he says, yes, he calls them his dads.

“What I remember was that I got taken away from my parents very, very young, when I was under five and put into care with other carers,” Jayden says, remembering his first care experience. “When I first met Steve and Brendan was way down the track, when I was like nine or eight.”

Steve was single when he started caring for Jayden, Brendan came on the scene later. “He was just a really nice guy,” Jayden says of his first impression of Steve. “I didn’t know anything about his sexuality or anything, and if someone had told me I wouldn’t have known what they meant.” Jayden’s hope at the time was simple. He was looking for “a safe place where I could grow up and try to have a normal life.” At the time he was moving around from carer to carer and saw in Steve the possibility of stability. Although he says he was not abused in any of the residential care accommodation he was put into – where children stay together under the supervision of care-takers – Jayden says residential care “wasn’t a very nice place”.

When Steve explained to Jayden that he was gay, Jayden says he did not believe him. “I thought he must be joking. I think I was ten or eleven. At that age people have a sort of stereotype of a homosexual person. Then my real parents told me what the situation was and I’m like, ‘OK, that’s cool.’”

Did it change his feelings towards Steve? “Not a bit. Since you’ve grown such an attachment to a person, something like that really doesn’t change anything. As with any normal person, we had to take time to get used to each other. Even now, like, we act like a normal family, we fight sometimes, but at the end of the day we still love each other.”

According to Jayden, it took about a year for him to feel that his placement with Steve was more than just another brief stay. “I met his family and they pretty much took me in as their family. This was around Christmas time. We went on holidays together and, yeah, it was in the back of my mind that we were definitely a family. He was the one that I was going to be calling dad.”

Jayden has his sights set on a career as a P.E. teacher or a police officer, but his dream is to play basketball. He plays for his school, as well as the Collingwood team in the Victorian Junior Basketball League. He wants to get into college basketball in the US, which would involve videoing himself playing then sending the tape to recruiters Stateside.

He says Steve and Brendan are supportive of his basketball, taking him to practice, and such, but have cautioned him about having a back-up plan. “They don’t want me to put all my eggs in one basket. Because if I don’t make it to college, they want me to have something over here.”

It is at this point that the topic of Jayden’s parents comes up for the first time. I ask him if, like Steve and Brendan, his mother and father also give him advice. “I get advice from them,” he replies. “Whether I listen to them or not is another story.” He listens to Steve and Brendan, he says, rather than his parents. I ask why. “I guess my parents don’t really have much to show for their own advice that they’re trying to give out, whereas Steve and Brendan do. The least I can follow in my parents footsteps the better for me. They’re both not working and haven’t done the best by me.”

I tell Jayden this would sound a bit harsh to some – what does he say to people who question why he doesn’t listen to his mum and dad? “I know exactly why,” he says. “But people have to be put in my position to see what my mum and dad have made out of my life. I know [why people] are saying they’re my parents and I should listen to them. But they haven’t been exactly the best role models for me.” In the long run, he says, the authorities made the right decision removing him from his parents’ care.

Jayden says his sexuality has not been influenced by having gay dads. “Well, I’m pretty sure that I’m not gay,” he laughs. “I can guarantee that I’m not gay.

“It’s a weird sort of question,” he says when I insist that some people think he is more likely to be gay because of Steve and Brendan’s influence. “I don’t know where they get that stuff from.”

Does he see his relationship with Steve and Brendan continuing after he grows into independence and no longer needs care in the formal, social-worker sense of that word. Jayden’s response is immediate: “They will be the ones standing next to me at my wedding. They’ll be at my wedding, they’ll be my parents at the wedding.”

For more information on foster care or becoming a carer, call Foster Care on 1800 013 088 or visit fosterabrighterfuture.com.au

Thanks to the staff at Berry Street for their assistance in the production of this article.

[Source: Original Article]

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QNews – “Gay Dads Australia” by Jonathan Duffy

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Rodney Chiang-Cruise is a lawyer, husband and father. He is also a gay man. Rodney is a member of Gay Dads Australia, a group dedicated to gay men who want to become fathers. Jonathan Duffy recently had a chat with Rodney on the heels of the group’s annual forum. Rodney talks about the group, being a father and what it is actually like to go through the process of surrogacy.

Q: how did Gay Dads Australia start?

Rodney: About 5 years ago a gentleman called Lee Matthews and his partner Tony Wood did a documentary for SBS called Two men and a baby, about their surrogacy journey. Lee was involved with the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby. Through that he started what was initially Gay Dads Victoria. When we decided that we wanted to have a child through surrogacy we tracked Lee and Tony down (some would call it stalking but we weren’t the only ones). We had seen the documentary and wanted to know more. Back then there was little information around. We all became good friends and about four years ago we decided to expand to become Gay Dads Australia.

Q: When you and your partner decided to go down the road of surrogacy, did you know that it was an option for you?

Rodney: no. It was actually my mother who brought it to our attention. She had taped the documentary and told us we should watch it. We hadn’t even thought about it. We had looked at co-parenting and other options but had never considered it.  Our journey started from that point.

Q: Is it true that sometimes it can be expensive?

Rodney: Not as expensive as it used to be. When we went through surrogacy most of the dads were in their 30’s and 40’s because it demanded that you were at a certain place in your life. Usually it meant things like mortgaging your house, which is what we did. When we actually applied for the loan and told the bank manager what it was for, he was worried he wouldn’t get it through head office so he said “lets just put it through as home additions, non structural.”

Q: is it actually easier to go though surrogacy than adoption?

Rodney: Adoption isn’t an option in Australia. On record only one gay couple have ever adopted. They were in WA. There are only about 30 children in the entire country up for adoption each year. Those kids almost exclusively go to heterosexual, married, couples. There aren’t enough kids. Australia has one of the lowest adoption rates in the world because of this.

Q: So what is normally involved?

Rodney: There are two types of surrogacy, altruistic and commercial. Altruistic surrogacy is where there is no exchange of money. It is legal in Victoria, ACT, WA and now Queensland. No gay male couples have done it yet because it’s difficult to find a surrogate, and egg donor. We don’t really have a culture of surrogacy yet; it’s still very new. Most people, straight or gay, will use commercial surrogacy services and they’re mostly located in the US and now in India. The first thing you do is find an agency that will help you. You fly there, meet them, sign papers, pay some money, and then the process starts of finding a surrogate. That can take anywhere from two months to twelve months. At the same time you also have to find an egg donor. All commercial surrogates are called gestational surrogates, which means that the baby is not genetically related to her. You get an egg donor through another agency. Then you “dump the junk.” You make a sperm deposit. Then the egg is fertilised and the embryos are implanted through IVF. Then you come home and cross your fingers and hope you get pregnant. Probably about 60 to 70 per cent of people are successful on the first attempt.

Q: So how much have you spent just getting to this stage?

Rodney: once you get to the pregnancy you’ve probably spent US$60,000 to US$70,000. By the time the whole process is over you could be looking at US$120,000 to US$220,000. It is totally worth it though.

To see the whole interview go to  www.QNews.com.au

[Source: Original Article]

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US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, Pediatrics, 7 June 10

US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-Year-Old Adolescents

Nanette Gartrell, MDa,b,c, Henny Bos, PhDc
Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California;
Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, Los Angeles, California;
Graduate School of Pedagogical and Educational Sciences, Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands

OBJECTIVES The objective of this study was to document the psychological adjustment of adolescents who were conceived through donor insemination by lesbian mothers who enrolled before these offspring were born in the largest, longest running, prospective, longitudinal study of same-sex–parented families.

METHODS Between 1986 and 1992, 154 prospective lesbian mothers volunteered for a study that was designed to follow planned lesbian families from the index children’s conception until they reached adulthood. Data for the current report were gathered through interviews and questionnaires that were completed by 78 index offspring when they were 10 and 17 years old and through interviews and Child Behavior Checklists that were completed by their mothers at corresponding times. The study is ongoing, with a 93% retention rate to date.

RESULTS According to their mothers’ reports, the 17-year-old daughters and sons of lesbian mothers were rated significantly higher in social, school/academic, and total competence and significantly lower in social problems, rule-breaking, aggressive, and externalizing problem behavior than their age-matched counterparts in Achenbach’s normative sample of American youth. Within the lesbian family sample, no Child Behavior Checklist differences were found among adolescent offspring who were conceived by known, as-yet-unknown, and permanently unknown donors or between offspring whose mothers were still together and offspring whose mothers had separated.

CONCLUSIONS Adolescents who have been reared in lesbian-mother families since birth demonstrate healthy psychological adjustment. These findings have implications for the clinical care of adolescents and for pediatricians who are consulted on matters that pertain to same-sex parenting.

[Source: Original Article]

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New Study – Gay Fathers Day: Two-Dad Families Doing Well in Transition to Parenthood

Newswise – The first study ever to examine the experiences of gay male partners who became fathers via surrogacy shows that they are more likely than heterosexual fathers to scale back their careers in order to care for their children. Also, these fathers report that their self-esteem and their closeness with their extended families increases after becoming parents.

In most respects, life changes resulting from parenthood were very much like those experienced by heterosexual couples – closer relations with co-workers, a transition away from single friends toward other couples (straight and gay) with children, and less time for sleep, exercise, and hobbies.

The study involved 40 gay men who became parents through surrogacy, an assisted reproductive technique in which prospective parents contract with a woman to carry a child through pregnancy to birth. In most cases, the egg is obtained independently from a different woman (an "egg donor") than the woman who carries the baby (the "surrogate"). The child is genetically related to one of the gay male parents. The surrogacy process is complex and very expensive, and participating couples in the study were affluent.

The study was conducted by four psychology researchers–Kim Bergman of Growing Generations in Los Angeles (a surrogacy agency), and Ritchie J. Rubio, Robert-Jay Green, and Elena Padrón of the Rockway Institute at the California School of Professional Psychology, Alliant International University, San Francisco. Study results were published in the latest issue of the Journal of GLBT Family Studies,6:111-141, 2010.

The study gathered information from one partner in each of 40 couples through hour-long interviews conducted in person or by telephone. The parents’ median age was 41, and their average annual household income was $270,000. The median age of participants’ children was one year and ten months.

The study gathered information on four aspects of the participants’ experience as they transitioned to parenthood: 1) work and career changes, 2) lifestyle issues, 3) couple, family and friendship experiences, and 4) self-esteem and self-care.

Work and career changes included changing work life in terms of travel, hours and career path (reported by 70 percent of participants); going through occupational changes (65 percent); having sacrifices, losses and missed opportunities in work life (53 percent); and making changes in career goals (53 percent). The fathers reported that their relationships with peers at work improved, while their relationship with superiors at work remained the same. "It is noteworthy," the researchers wrote, "that many of these gay fathers negotiated their career prospects downward and focused on their parenting responsibilities as being primary, at least for the time being while their children were so young … This is in sharp contrast to heterosexual fathers, who often augment their work hours and career commitments after having children."

Lifestyle issues involved a variety of experiences, from buying a larger car or expanding the house to lower frequency and cost of travel. Nearly two-thirds of the new dads bought a new car or made changes in their housing to accommodate their child. Sixty percent hired child care assistance. Nearly all (90 percent) reported changing their business and leisure travel in terms of frequency, length of time, and cost. Two-thirds (65 percent) reported changes in their financial status. Eighty-five percent reported completing or updating their estate planning.

The new fathers encountered many changes in relations with family, friends and co-workers. The couples had been together an average of 12 years, and none had dissolved their relationship after becoming parents. They acknowledged a decrease in romance and personal intimacy with their partners, though they said their relationships remained romantic. Most fathers reported that relationships with their families of origin had become closer and that having a baby increased recognition of the couple as a family. Relations with co-workers often improved because of the shared parenting experience. The new dads reported changes to their social life, with fewer late-night and weekday engagements and a gradual trend toward socializing with other couples who have children, rather than single friends.

One of the notable findings was that having a child significantly improved the gay fathers’ self esteem. Nearly all (95 percent) said having a child "makes me feel good about myself" and that their self-esteem had improved since being a parent. The new fathers reported they were taking less care of themselves by sleeping and exercising less and devoting less time to hobbies, leisure activities and involvement in personal causes. Although their reported spirituality had not changed significantly, more of the new parents (an increase from 25 to 38 percent) reported they were attending religious services since adding a child to their family.

The researchers observed that the new fathers "felt extremely positive and proud about being parents … The narratives of the gay fathers in this study underscore how being a parent contributed to greater meaning in their lives … They derived pleasure and pride in taking care of their children, while they also received increasing validation from their families and their communities."

"Our findings reinforce the growing research evidence that the sexual orientation of the parents makes little difference in parenting. At this early stage of child development, the infant’s or toddler’s needs drive the family interactions and structure the couples’ relationships with friends and relatives. This is as it should be. Gay couples are making major accommodations in their lives just like their heterosexual counterparts who become parents," said Robert-Jay Green, PhD., executive director of the Rockway Institute.
The researchers’ next study will compare the psychological outcomes of children raised by heterosexual parents and children conceived via surrogacy and raised by gay male parents.

About Rockway Institute: The nonpartisan Rockway Institute promotes scientific and professional expertise to counter antigay prejudice and improve public policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The Institute’s view is that public opinion, policies, and programs should be shaped by the facts about LGBT lives, not by political ideology. A primary goal is to organize the most knowledgeable social scientists, mental health professionals, and physicians in the United States to provide accurate information about LGBT issues to the media, legislatures, and the courts. The Institute also conducts targeted research projects to address the nation’s most pressing LGBT public policy concerns. Website: www.rockwayinstitute.org

To obtain a copy of the original article as published:
Dr. Robert-Jay Green, Tel. 415-955-2121; Email: rjgreen@alliant.edu.

To contact the researchers for further information:

Dr. Kim Bergman, Growing Generations, LLC, Los Angeles, CA
Tel. 323-965-7500 ext. 4715; Email: kim@fertilitycounselingservices.com

Dr. Robert-Jay Green, Rockway Institute at Alliant International University, San Francisco, CA
Tel. 415-955-2121; Email: rjgreen@alliant.edu

[Source: Original Article]

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