LGBT Parents in Child Welfare

Resources from ACF, the Children’s Bureau, and the T/TA Network

Resources from Collaborating Organizations

Resources from the States


From ACF, the Children’s Bureau, and the T&TA Network

Resources & Publications

  • Twenty Things Supervisors Can Do to Support Workers to Competently Practice with LGBTQ Children, Youth, and Families
    This publication from the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections briefly highlights twenty ways that child welfare supervisors can support workers in practicing competently with LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning) children, youth, and families. It provides concrete tips that supervisors can utilize in their day-to-day work, in order to provide effective supervision that helps workers to enhance their skills in practicing with LGBTQ children, youth, and families and to promote an LGBTQ-affirming agency environment. (June 2014)

  • Supporting and Retaining LGBT Foster and Adoptive Parents (Brief 3)
    This practice brief from the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections identifies and addresses important practices for supporting and retaining LGBT foster and adoptive parents, including providing peer support and a ‘safe space’ to explore issues; providing information and linking LGBT parents to opportunities to engage in support groups; and, making on-going post-approval training accessible. It discusses the importance of recognizing the particular vulnerabilities and strengths of LGBT parents. This resource includes the following sections: Introduction; Post-Permanency Support Issues for LGBT Foster and Adoptive Parents; Characteristics of Post-Permanency Support Services; and, Organizations and Resources. This is the third practice brief in a three-part series on working with LGBT resource families. (October 2012)
  • LGBT Prospective Foster and Adoptive Families: The Homestudy Assessment Process (Brief 2)
    This practice brief from the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections includes the following sections: Introduction; Assessment of LGBT-Headed Foster and Adoptive Families; The First Contact; Training Groups for Prospective Resource Families; Should the Homestudy Be Different for LGBT Parents?; Issues to Address in a Homestudy; Implications for Competent Practice and Assessment; and, Conclusion. This publication offers an overview of formats being used to write homestudies for prospective LGBT adoptive and foster parents. It also provides questions that social workers can use to assist with the homestudy and related resources. This is the second practice brief in a three-part series on working with LGBT resource families. (October 2012)
  • Strategies for Recruiting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Families (Brief 1)
    This publication provides an introduction to the topic of LGBT parents as a resource in the child welfare system, followed by a discussion of strategies for recruiting and engaging LGBT resource families. It includes the following sections: Special Considerations in Recruiting LGBT Parents; Developing Internal and External Communication Strategies; General Recruitment Strategies; Targeted Recruitment Strategies; and, Welcoming LGBT Prospective Parents Who Contact Your Agency. The Closing Thoughts section outlines specific steps that agencies can take to be inclusive and affirming of LGBT resource families, and provides additional resources. This publication was developed collaboratively by the National Resource Center for Adoption, the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections, and the National Resource Center for Recruitment and Retention of Foster and Adoptive Parents at AdoptUSKids. This is the first practice brief in a three-part series on working with LGBT resource families. (April 2012)
  • Tips for Child Welfare Professionals: Talking about LGBT-Headed Families
    This NRCPFC publication provides child welfare professionals with considerations and guidance for talking about LGBT-headed resource families. It recommends first talking to the LGBT person or couple, and provides suggestions for then talking to birth families about their child joining an LGBT-headed family, as well as for talking to children/youth about becoming part of an LGBT-headed family. (June 2012)
  • LGBT Foster and Adoptive Parenting
    This NRCPFC Information Packet, authored by Teija Sudol, provides a brief summary of information on LGBT foster and adoptive parenting, followed by: facts and statistics on the topic, an introduction to relevant policies and legislation, a review of best practices and promising approaches, a listing of online resources, and a bibliography. (October 2010)
  • Permanency Planning Today: Inclusive Practice with LGBT Resource Families
    This issue of Permanency Planning Today, NRCPFC’s bi-annual newsletter, focuses on inclusive practice with LGBT-headed Resource Families, and features interviews on this topic with Ellen Kahn from the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children-All Families Initiative; Terry Boggis from Center Kids, Center Families at New York City’s LGBTQ Community Center; Joe, an adoptive father and member of the LGBT community; and, Diane Wagner, Division Chief, County of Los Angeles Department of Children Family Services, Adoption & Permanency Resources. (Summer 2010)
  • NRCPFC T&TA for States and Tribes Pertaining to Working with LGBTQ Children, Youth, and Families
    This document describes examples of training and technical assistance opportunities that the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections is able to provide to States and Tribes in order to promote competent and affirming services, policies, and practices for working with LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning) children, youth, and families. (January 2010)
  • LGBT Foster and Adoptive Parenting
    This brief resource handout from NRCPFC and AdoptUsKids provides a basic overview of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) foster and adoptive parenting issues. It addresses research on LGBT parenting, the number of foster and adoptive children currently living with gay or lesbian parents, laws and policies on LGBT foster and adoptive parenting, and how agencies can better welcome, recruit, and retain LGBT resource families. (2010)
  • Talking with Experts: Engaging LGBT Families
    AdoptUSKids spoke with three members of a time-limited advisory group that it had convened in 2010 to gather expert guidance for the design of services and tools to support recruitment and retention practices that are welcoming to, and inclusive of, prospective foster and adoptive parents who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). The focus of the interviews was to discuss how child welfare and adoption agencies can effectively engage LGBT families. These experts shared insights and suggestions for specific action steps. This series is broken into three parts:

Bibliographies and Resource Lists

  • Resource List: LGBT-Headed Resource Families
    This NRCPFC Resource List contains two sections: (1) NRCPFC and T&TA Network Resources for Child Welfare Professionals Working with LGBT-Headed Resource Families and (2) Resources for LGBT-Headed Resource Families and their Children. A brief description of each resource is provided, along with a web-link to access the resource. (June 2012)
  • Child Welfare & Work with LGBTQ Children, Youth, and Families
    This bibliography lists books, book chapters, and peer reviewed professional articles on social work/child welfare practice with LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning) children, youth, and families. All of the resources were authored by Gerald P. Mallon, DSW, Executive Director of the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections, and Professor at the Hunter College School of Social Work. (1992-2010)
  • LGBT Parenting Issues
    This bibliography developed by NRCPFC lists articles, books, and book chapters addressing LGBT parenting issues. (1983-2009)

PowerPoint Presentations

  • Sticks and Stones Can Break Your Bones: The Bio-Psycho-Social Consequences of LGBT Bullying
    This PowerPoint presentation by Dr. Gerald P. Mallon, DSW, Director of the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections, provides information on bullying, focusing on bullying and LGBTQ youth and discussing the impact of bullying and harassment on the education and mental health of LGBTQ youth. It provides information on what we can do to help, as well as additional resources. This PowerPoint was presented on March 14, 2011 at the Dominican College Social Work Program Community Day Event. (Last Updated: June 2011)
  • Facilitating Discussion of Transgender Issues: A Primer
    This PowerPoint presentation by Dr. Gerald P. Mallon, DSW, Director of the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections, provides information on strategies that are useful in creating an environment conducive to discussion of transgender issues with adolescents. It addresses the following topics: Active demonstration of transgender awareness and sensitivity; routinely screening for gender concerns; dilemmas in diagnosis of gender concerns in adolescence; and, conducting a detailed trans-inclusive psychosocial evaluation. (2011)
  • Future Directions in Fostering, Adoption and Kinship Care for LGBT Families: What is Possible When We Move Forward Together?
    This participatory leadership symposium was sponsored by The National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections, Hunter College School of Social Work and the Center for LGBT Social Science and Public Policy, Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College. It brought together LGBT adoptive and foster parents and prospective parents, researchers, policymakers, service providers, community-based organizations, and advocates to discuss how we can move together in tough economic times with shrinking resources, to promote and sustain progressive policies and best practices in adoption, fostering, and kinship care for LGBT parents and families. Participants reviewed where we are, where we want to go, and how we can move forward collaboratively within New York State and nationally. (October 29, 2010)
  • Barriers and Success Factors in Adoption from Foster Care: Perspectives of Lesbian and Gay Families
    This PowerPoint presentation from AdoptUsKids was presented at the 2010 Policy to Practice Dialogue, “Making Connections in Child Welfare”, on October 5, 2010. The PowerPoint reviews findings from interviews and thematic analysis findings from focus groups, as well as examples of family recommendations for agencies and for prospective families. This research project was requested and funded by the Children’s Bureau for the primary purpose of using the findings to shape the services that AdoptUsKids provides across the AdoptUsKids project, either directly to LGBT families, or through technical assistance to States, Tribes, and Territories. (October 2010)
  • Working with GLBTQ Children, Youth, and Families
    This NRCPFC presentation by Dr. Gerald Mallon addresses the following topics pertaining to working with GLBTQ children youth, and families: basic knowledge, language/symbols, coming out/found out, adaptations for GLBTQ persons, and, assessment & interventions.

Webinars, Webcasts, and Videos

  • LGBT-Headed Foster and Adoptive Families: Youth Perspectives
    This webinar, co-presented by AdoptUSKids and the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections, highlighted new research findings about the perspectives and experiences of youth who have been adopted from the foster care system by parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). Presenters shared new resources to help child welfare professionals apply research findings to their practice, especially in relation to communicating openly with children/youth and their birth families, when the children/youth may join an LGBT-headed family or already have been placed with LGBT parents. This webinar also provided new resources for LGBT resource parents and closed with a question and answer period. (June 2012)
  • NRCPFC Webcast: True Colors – Building Connections between Youth in Care and Mentors
    In this webcast, NRCPFC staff, Tracy Serdjenian and Benjamin Muhammad, talked with Robin McHaelen, True Colors Executive Director, and Christopher Armstrong and Hiram Ortiz, a mentor/mentee pair from the True Colors Mentoring Program. They discussed programmatic mentorship as an opportunity for a youth in care to develop a positive, caring relationship with an adult who can offer support, guidance, encouragement, and connectedness. They also talked about the development and approach of the True Colors mentoring program, including how the program works with and prepares mentors. True Colors manages Connecticut’s only LGBT mentoring program.  (February 2012)
  • Practice Issues with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Families
    NRCPFC co-hosted this teleconference with AdoptUsKids. In this event, Dr. Ruth McRoy, PhD, shared preliminary findings from research with lesbian and gay foster/adoptive families. The event also discussed T&TA on Practice with LGBT Families available from the Children’s Bureau T&TA Network. Additionally, Dr. Gerald P. Mallon, NRCPFC Executive Director, addressed the topic of inclusive practice at the agency and case levels. (June 2010)
  • NRCPFC Digital Stories from the Field: Cliff’s Story
    In this NRCPFC Digital Story, Cliff discusses factors and experiences that influenced his decision to adopt, particularly being gay and adopted himself. He also talks about resources and supports that have been important to their family.

From Collaborating Organizations

Evidence-Based Practice, Research, Reports

  • LGBT Parenting in the United States
    This national study, by Williams Institute Distinguished Scholar, Gary J. Gates, highlights the diversity and prevalence of LGBT parents and their children in the U.S. The analysis draws on data from the 2008/2010 General Social Survey, the Gallup Daily Tracking Survey, Census 2010, and the Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey (ACS).  An estimated 37% of LGBT Americans have had a child, meaning as many as six million American children and adults have an LGBT parent. The report found that same-sex couple parents and their children are more likely to be racial and ethnic minorities. States with the highest proportions of same-sex couples raising biological, adopted or step-children include Mississippi (26%), Wyoming (25%), Alaska (23%), Idaho (22%), and Montana (22%). The report found that LGBT individuals and same-sex couples raising children face greater economic challenges than their non-LGBT counterparts. Several factors likely contribute to the relative economic disadvantages of same-sex couples with children, including that LGB parents are more likely to be female, black, Latino/a, and younger than their different-sex counterparts. In the U.S., all of these groups, on average, have lower incomes. The full report and the press release are available online. (2013)
  • LGBT Foster and Adoptive Families: Finding Children Forever Homes
    This publication highlights the compelling need to find adoptive families for waiting children, provides an overview of the barriers faced by LGBT families wishing to foster and adopt, and includes targeted recommendations designed to ensure that LGBT families can help fill the need for loving, stable foster and adoptive homes for children. This brief was authored by MAP (Movement Advancement Project), Family Equality Council, and Center for American Progress. (June 2012)
  • Quality of Life of Adolescents Raised From Birth by Lesbian Mothers
    The quality of life of 17-year-olds reared in lesbian-parent families did not differ from that of a matched group of adolescents who grew up in heterosexual-parent families, according to this study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. The study also found, among teens with lesbian mothers, no difference in quality of life based on donor status (whether they had been conceived by known or unknown donors), experienced stigmatization (whether or not they had experienced discrimination), or maternal relationship continuity (whether their mothers were still together or had separated). The data in this report comes from adolescents whose families are participants in the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, the longest-running and largest prospective investigation of lesbian mothers and their children in the United States. (2012)
  • All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families
    LGBT families – like all families – simply want equal opportunities to provide stable, loving homes to their children, to ensure economic security, and to raise healthy children who become integral parts of their communities. This report reveals how discriminatory laws and stigma make this more difficult for LGBT families (families where lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender parents are raising children). The report was released at an event at the Center for American Progress. The report was co-authored by MAP, the Center for American Progress, and the Family Equality Council, in partnership with COLAGE, The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, and the National Association of Social Workers (with a foreword by the Child Welfare League of America). Resources available online include: Full Length Report; Condensed Report; Executive Summary; Facts at a Glance; and, a short video. (October 2011)
  • Expanding Resources for Children III: Research-Based Best Practices in Adoption by Gays and Lesbians
    A broad, four-year-long research project by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute culminated in the publication of this report by David Brodzinsky, Ph.D., which provides important new information about and insights into the perceptions, experiences and needs of non-heterosexual adoptive parents. It includes the following sections: Introduction; The Growth of Lesbian and Gay Adoption; Survey of Lesbian/Gay Adoptive Parents; Discussion and Conclusions; and, Recommendations. Visit the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute website to access the Executive Summary and Full Report. (October 2011)
  • Assessing Lesbian and Gay Prospective Foster and Adoptive Families: A Focus on the Homestudy Process
    Foster care and adoption by gay men and lesbians is not a new phenomenon. Children and youth have always been placed by states and public agencies in homes with gay and lesbian parents.  Some gay men and lesbians have fostered or adopted children independently from private agencies or have made private adoption arrangements with individual birth mothers; others have fostered or adopted through the public system. This article, authored by Dr. Gerald P. Mallon, and published in Child Welfare, draws on research literature, practice wisdom from 34 years of child welfare experiences, and case examples. It offers child welfare professionals guidelines for competent assessment with prospective foster or adoptive parents who identify as lesbian or gay. (2007)
  • Adoption and Foster Care by Lesbian and Gay Parents in the United States
    This report from the Urban Institute provides information on GLB adoption and foster care from several government data sources. It offers a demographic portrait of the estimated 65,500 adopted children and 14,100 foster children living with gay and lesbian parents. It also assesses the costs to child welfare systems of proposed bans on allowing GLB people to foster. (2007)
  • The Effects of Marriage, Civil Union, and Domestic Partnership Laws on the Health and Well-being of Children
    This analysis examining the effects of marriage, civil union, and domestic partnership statutes and amendments on the legal, financial, and psychosocial health and well-being of children whose parents are gay or lesbian is from the American Academy of Pediatrics. It explores the unique and complex challenges that same-gender couples and their children face as a result of public policy that excludes them from civil marriage. (2006)

Resources & Publications

  • Promising Practices in Adoption and Foster Care
    This guide, produced by the All Children – All Families initiative, offers examples of effective practices for working with GLBT foster and adoptive parents. It is the first comprehensive, practical tool aimed to help adoption and foster care agencies as well as exchange organizations improve policies and practices that affect their work with LGBT prospective parents. The guide features sample policies and materials, along with tips from leaders of welcoming agencies and exchange organizations, researchers in the field and LGBT adoptive and foster parents. Topics include leadership and governance; staff training and recruitment strategies; pre-adoption services; home study practices; placement; services for foster parents; post-permanency support for adoptive families and retention of foster families. (2012)

  • Moving the Margins PowerPoint Training Tool
    This Lambda Legal PowerPoint can be used with trainings based on the Moving the Margins curriculum. It covers LGBTQ 101 and 201 trainings, including information, exercises/activities, and learning labs. (2009)

Webinars, Webcasts, and Videos

  • Gender in LGBTQ Families
    In this webinar, sponsored by the Lesbian and Gay Family Building Project, Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev, Albany, NY-area family therapist, educator and writer, discussed gender in LGBTQ families, including roles within same-sex couples, gender identity, trans parenting, and raising gender-variant children. Ari also addressed questions such as, “‘How do we assist our children in developing healthy gender identities, whether they are “normative” or variant?’ and ‘How do we, as parents, manage our own angst about our children’s developing sex and gender identities?’” (January 2012)
  • Daddy & Papa
    Daddy & Papa is a documentary film on parenting by gay men. Through the stories of four different families, the film delves into some of the particular challenges facing gay men who decide to become dads. From surrogacy, foster care, and interracial adoption, to the complexities of gay marriage and divorce, to the battle for full legal status as parents, Daddy & Papa presents a revealing look at some of the gay fathers who are breaking new ground in the ever-changing landscape of the American family. It includes a look at adoption through the foster care system. (2002)

From the States

  • Florida: Cost of Florida's Ban on Adoption by GLB Individuals and Same-Sex Couples
    This memo, authored by Naomi G. Golberg and M.V. Lee Badgett and published by The Williams Institute, estimates the impact on children and the cost to the State of Florida of the current prohibition on adoption by gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) individuals and same-sex couples. They use data about the number of children adopted each year as a way to estimate the number of GLB individuals and same-sex couples who would be likely to serve as adoptive parents if the ban were not in place. Prohibiting GLB individuals and same-sex couples from adopting means that 165 children must remain in foster care or must have alternative adoptive homes recruited for them. As a result, they estimate that the ban costs the State of Florida over $2.5 million per year. As explained below, this estimate is conservative, since some likely additional costs are difficult to quantify. In addition, because of the current prohibition on GLB individuals and same-sex couples adopting children in Florida, it is possible that more GLB individuals and same-sex couples would be interested in adopting if the ban were lifted. They estimate that if the ban were lifted, both adoption and foster care by GLB individuals and same-sex couples would increase to the average United States level, leading to 219 children being adopted, and saving the State of Florida $3.4 million dollars in the first year. (March 2009)
  • New York City: Guidelines for Promoting a Safe and Respectable Environment for LGBTQ Youth and their Families Involved with DYFJ
    The purpose of these policies from the New York City Administration for Children’s Services is to provide direction to Children’s Services and provider agency staff and volunteers on sensitive, inclusive, and gender neutral practice as well as strategies to address bias and meet the unique needs of youth and families. It is meant to be used as best practice guidelines to provide LGBTQ youth and families with services in a respectful, safe, inclusive, culturally competent and affirming manner. (2011)


  • AdoptUsKids: Adoption Laws and Resources for LGBT Families
    AdoptUSKids is working to help reduce barriers to adoption for LGBT families. This includes providing free assistance to LGBT families who are seeking to foster or adopt children from foster care, and developing free resources for child welfare agencies on best practices for working with LGBT families.
  • All Children - All Families
    HRC’s All Children – All Families project promotes LGBT cultural competency among child welfare agencies through innovative resources including an online agency self-assessment tool; comprehensive staff training, free technical assistance, and more. Child welfare agencies that recruit, license, support and place with adoption/foster families and/or provide direct services to youth in out-of-home care are eligible to participate.

    COLAGE is a national movement of children, youth, and adults with one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer (LGBTQ) parent/s. They build community and work toward social justice through youth empowerment, leadership development, education, and advocacy. The COLAGE website offers a variety of resources for parents, including tips for coming out to your kids, a listing of books for parents, transgender family resources, and transition tips for parents.

  • Human Rights Campaign
    The number of LGBT-headed families continues to grow, as does our need to secure legal equality, fairness and respect for LGBT couples and our children. HRC provides current resources that address the many potential paths to parenthood as well as issues around LGBT youth and families in schools. Visit the "Parenting" section of this website for information about state adoption laws and foster parenting issues for GLBT parents.


Last updated 6/9/14