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Adoption process should be tough, reflective, focused; new Michigan law makes it crass, crude, discriminatory

by Jeremy Hooper

When my husband and I chose adoption, we chose to put our relationship, commitment, abilities, and resources to the test in ways previously unmatched. All potential adoptive parents willingly submit their lives to every form of scrutiny imaginable. From deeply personal home studies to intrusive picking apart of financial statements to judges who must deem your family fit to parent, the process is a rigorous journey designed so qualified parents will rise up from the battery of tests that would easily eliminate those whose priorities were out of whack or whose understanding of what it means to be a parent is better suited for a house plant than for a human person.

So I'm speaking not only as a gay activist, or even as an American taxpayer who values church and state lines, when I voice disgust over the law that Michigan's Republican governor, Rick Snyder, recently signed into law, in which he codified the "right" of religious agencies that accept state funding to turn away couples based on "deeply held religious beliefs":

Anti-gay adoption bill another shameful moment for Michigan [Detroit Free Press]

I'm speaking instead as a doting parent who knows what adoption is all about—much more so than most of the religious conservatives who champion these kinds of blanket exclusions.

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 At 6.22.24 AmFrankly, I think we'd have a better parenting culture overall if every potential parent had to undergo the examination process that surrounds adoption. While it's impossible to be fully prepared for parenting, a realm that is in many ways unknowable or unlearnable prior to the event itself, the adoption process forces the potential parent(s) into deep consideration mode. For me, the weight of the process itself only drove home the weightiness of parenting. When I had to engage in one process in order to move up the next rung of the ladder toward certification and, ultimately, placement, I would take that step as a catalyst for further exploration. If, for instance, Img 4608I knew I had to write a note for our adoption website on why I value my husband and how I know he would make a great father, I would take that a step further and read three books on how to communicate with your spouse through the parenting process. Or if I had to consider the safety of my home in order to pass the practical part of the home study, I'd use this as a springboard for deeper consideration of every last product with which I could outfit our home so that it was a place of growth for our child rather than just one that kept him or hersafe from harm. And so on.

It's impossible to breeze one's way through the process of adoption. Which is how it should be. There are few, if any, life decisions as monumental than this one. The agencies/lawyers/judges/birthparents involved should be tough as nails on the potential parent(s), putting his/her/their mettle to the test in every way imaginable. At the same time, the adoptive parents must be more self-reflective than they have ever been in order to ensure that this truly is the right choice for any child they might bring into their home, first and foremost.

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 At 6.29.12 AmAnd when the adoption is state-sponsored, the government must also be properly focus. The government should be in the business of finding the best possible home for every birthparent and child in need of a loving family. The government should not be funding a tiered system that allows certain agencies to benefit from the state cash flow that keeps them afloat while also disqualifying perfectly qualified individuals and couples based on who they are as human beings rather than what and how they can provide for children in need. This, a system that pre-ranks potential parents based on factors like sexual orientation before they have ever had a chance to demonstrate any other quality, flies in the face of a process that must be geared toward finding the best and most qualified parents.

This new Michigan law is state-sponsored discrimination that I suspect will be stricken in short order, yes. But more than even that, it is a disruptive and divisive idea that puts the judgmental interests of adults before the welfare of children, unborn and born. It puts religious condemnation above what should be the better angels of faith; it puts "culture war" politics above far more reasonable concerns.

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