Married couples that attempt adoption must undergo physical and emotional testing, submit to background and credit checks, and generally prove themselves to be fit parents. Single people have an even more difficult time of it, although many manage it.
Gay couples, however, face the toughest hurdle of all, since most states won’t even allow them to adopt a child.
Eileen Joy, UNCA professor and the parent of an adopted child, says she and her partner, Maria, began attempting to adopt in the late 1990s.
“My partner and I were in graduate school in Tennessee, and then we moved to South Carolina, and that’s where the adoption happened,” Eileen explains.
“We really wanted to adopt an older American child,” she continues. “We wanted a child who had been abandoned and really needed a home.”
Realizing that as a gay couple in South Carolina, their chances of adopting were slim, Maria approached the state as a potential single parent living with someone else, Eileen relates. In the meantime, Eileen’s partner began the qualification process to become a foster parent.
As another option, the couple looked into international adoption, but found it “horrendously expensive,” Eileen recalls.
Then a fortuitous event occurred.
In the summer of 2000, the couple got a phone call from a Virginia woman they had contacted earlier about adopting a child from Russia, Eileen explains. The woman, who already had other children — both adopted and biological — had since gone to Russia to adopt a 13-year-old and a 9-year-old. Unfortunately, the younger child wasn’t adjusting well.
“The 9-year-old was extremely needy, and was causing friction in the family,” Eileen explains.
The woman wanted to know if Eileen was interested in adopting the child.
“They brought [the child] to us for a trial week and she stayed,” says Eileen, who, along with her partner, agreed to pay for the legal fees related to the change in adoption. The process, called an interrupted adoption, occurs when adoptive parents simply can’t get along with a child they’ve begun to adopt, but there are other parents who are willing to take the child.
“It took two years to get all the legal issues worked out in both Virginia and South Carolina,” says Eileen. Even so, the child isn’t legally hers.
“My partner is the child’s legally adoptive parent,” Eileen explains.