With the federal legalization of same-sex marriage, more same-sex couples want to grow their families. The options typically available to queer people who want children are adoption or alternative procedures, such in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy. These options are expensive for everyone, straight or queer. Because of ongoing legal challenges, having children for queer people is often even more costly.
Prudential’s 2016-2017 LGBT Financial Experience Survey shows that starting with Gen Y, the number of queer parents is expected to "increase significantly." The survey also shows that "already 23% of lesbians and 7% of gay men are financially responsible for a child under age 18. Among Gen Y study participants, 11% already have children and an additional 49% plan to have children in the future."
But just because the federal government recognizes same-sex marriages, it doesn’t mean discrimination against queer people and their families has ended. Much of the legal fight for queer equality has migrated to the states, and it makes starting a family costly.
The added costs of growing queer families
The good news is that, in many states, queer people are in a better position than ever before to adopt children. In others, however, the fight is not yet won. In these more prohibitive states, the average $15,000 to $50,000 cost per adoption becomes even more expensive.
Financial advisor, Cathy Pareto, who was a co-plaintiff in case that helped overturn Florida’s birth certificate law that prohibited two people of the same sex from being on the same birth certificate, says, "Financially speaking, the impact of uneven protections can translate into thousands of extra dollars in attorney's fees and court filings, many of which are not affordable for some of our families."
For example, many same-sex couples must pay for second-adoptions that cost between $2,000 and $3,000 because many states won’t let two people of the same sex petition for adoption of the same child. Therefore, one partner must petition for and adopt a child and then the other must file for a second-adoption.
Pareto further adds, "When we think of the added costs that LGBT parents face because of the many hateful laws still on the books around the country, it's not just a question of the financial impact but the emotional impact. Being treated as a second-class citizen with regard to our families' rights and protections comes at a cost to our dignity."
The costs are higher for queer people who want biological children. Surrogacy can cost queer people and couples between $100,000 to over $150,000 per child. The cost to get a child is in addition to the average costs of $233,610 to raise a child to the age of 18, not including college, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Ongoing legal challenges for queer families
Many state constitutions and laws have outdated and antiquated language that hasn’t kept up with the changes in laws. Add the push for religious freedom bills and others of their type and these create concerns and added expenses for queer families. It, also, creates additional costs for many queer people and couples to grow their families that often aren’t realized when straight people and couples start families.
The Colorado Senate narrowly avoided voting for Senate Bill 283 earlier last month. Proponents sold the bill as simply a "right to disagree" bill that had the potential of eroding anti-discrimination laws in Colorado. Colorado Senate Bill 283 would’ve allowed private businesses to decline to associate with other persons or entities with which the business owner "disagrees." Many Coloradans were concerned with the vague language of the bill and how it could be harmful to minorities and people of different beliefs and faiths.
The risk isn’t just to private business, though. The Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, currently has on her desk Alabama House Bill 24. If she signs this bill, also known as the Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act, it will legalize state adoption agencies to prohibit LGBT people from adopting children based on religious beliefs.
Colorado Senate Bill 283 and Alabama House Bill 24 are just two examples of the obstacles queer people have yet to overcome at the state-level. Indiana’s Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, caused a lot of concern when then-Indiana Governor and current Vice President of the United States Mike Pence signed the bill into law in 2015. Hawaii, Mississippi, Tennessee and other states have all caused a similar furor.
Why we should be promoting more queer people adopting
We should look to what’s truly best for the children in finding them a forever home and beyond long-held discriminatory beliefs. There are about 50,000 children adopted each year and over 100,000 children up for adoption. Same-sex couples are four times more likely to adopt a non-biological child than opposite-sex couples. Approximately two million queer people are interested in adopting a child.
More studies are showing that children raised by queer people do just as well as children raised by their straight counterparts. "Research is showing that children raised by gay or lesbian couples show a lot of sensitivity, openness, and a freedom of biases, so there are birth parents who actually prefer placing children with them," said Gloria Hochman, director of communications at National Adoption Center to Good Housekeeping’s Asher Fogle in December of 2015.
With the high number of queer people interested in adopting and the relatively few number of children available to adopt, extenuating circumstances notwithstanding, every child should have a forever home. It’s for these reasons that more states and organizations should be encouraging, rather than discouraging, queer people to adopt.
Protective steps queer families should take
The fundamentals of money apply to us all equally regardless of our background, socioeconomic status, and our sexual orientation or gender identity. The first and most important step is to figure out what your goals are. For queer people and couples who want children, they should design a life around saving for the standard and additional costs of having a child through adoption, surrogacy, IVF, or whatever means works best for them.
Budget for children – If having children is in your future, start saving for the standard and additional costs you’ll incur.
Save more – Have emergency savings in addition to the money you save for having a child. Then, save enough in your employer-sponsored retirement plan to get your employer match. You don’t want to give up free money and you don’t want to sacrifice your retirement for adoption.
Avoid debt – Don’t spend on credit. Pay off all debt, including student loans, as fast as possible.
Spend your money within the community – Do business with queer businesses by using the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce directory. This doesn’t give us more buying power, but it does strengthen our buying power.
Vote with your money – When you can’t spend within the queer community, spend on companies that support us.
If knowing is half the battle and you know you want to have children as a queer person or couple, then you’re halfway to your goal. Research what you can expect online about growing your family and by talking with other queer people who have gone through the process. The more you know, the better you can prepare.