Groups encourage more gay couples to adopt children, be foster parents

By Tyler Davis,  Contact Reporter, Chicago Tribune

With same-sex marriage widely accepted a year after it was legalized by the Supreme Court, some community groups are hoping less rigid attitudes will prompt more gay and lesbian couples to consider fostering or adopting a child.

“Across the country and especially in Illinois, we just don’t have enough people who have stepped forward, and we think that in the (LGBT) community there are people who would be good parents,” said Susan McConnell, founder and director of Let It Be Us, a local nonprofit adoption and foster care advocacy group.

Let It Be Us and other adoption and foster agencies have joined forces with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to hold workshops that provide encouragement and advice to potential gay and lesbian parents.

There are 17,019 children in foster care in Illinois — about 6,100 of those children are being cared for by people who are not relatives. And on any given day, about 1,000 children are available for adoption, according to DCFS.

Dawnn Pirani-Brumfield, 38, and her wife, Rachel, 37, of South Deering, are in the process of adopting 13-year-old Alicia, who describes herself as gender nonconforming.

“When she came in, she just thought it was the best thing ever that we were married and we were same gender and she felt that she was going to be safer with us in her own gender expression and sexuality,” Rachel Pirani-Brumfield said.

Rachel Pirani-Brumfield also splits custody of her biological daughter, Zosia, 17, with her ex-husband, and she and Dawnn Pirani-Brumfield hope to adopt more children — specifically LGBT youth. The couple took the first step toward fostering another child in a recent meeting, Dawnn Pirani-Brumfield said.

Although LGBT people make up 2 to 4 percent of the U.S. adult population, Andrew Flores, a public opinion and policy fellow at the Williams Institute, said same-sex couples are about six times more likely to raise foster youth and four times more likely to raise adopted youth than heterosexual couples. The Williams Institute is a UCLA-based think tank focused on sexual orientation and gender identity research.

And with nearly 415,000 children in the U.S. foster care system, more help is needed.

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