Options for Having Children
Raising a child is one of life’s most challenging and rewarding experiences. More and more gay men want to be parents and share their lives and love with a child. Gay men have three options for family building: having a biological child with an egg donor and a gestational surrogate, adoption, and fostering.
Family Building with a Surrogate
For gay men, in vitro fertilization (IVF) with donor eggs and a gestational surrogate are needed to conceive and carry a biological child. In IVF, one partner’s sperm fertilizes a donor egg in the lab. The fertilized egg grows into an embryo, which is then transferred to the uterus of the surrogate, who will carry the pregnancy. If one or more embryos implant, the surrogate will become pregnant. Usually multiple eggs are fertilized. Many IVF labs will let you choose to have half the eggs fertilized by sperm from one partner and the rest fertilized by the other partner’s sperm. The lab will keep records of whose sperm was used for which embryos, and the unused ones can be frozen and stored for future use.
Both the egg donor and the surrogate have to be prepared with fertility medications, for the donor to produce multiple eggs and for the surrogate to be able to receive embryos. The male partner or partners will need to undergo sperm testing and health screening at the fertility center before IVF.
A fertility center that offers egg donors and surrogacy can help you through the process. Your choice of egg donor is extremely important, because she provides half of your baby’s genes. Your choice of a surrogate is extremely important as well, because she’s responsible for your baby’s growth and development until birth. In many cases the gay couple stays in close contact with the surrogate during the pregnancy. You may wonder why one person can’t be both egg donor and surrogate. This depends on the laws in your state. Surrogacy is not allowed in some states, so you would have to go out of state to find a surrogate if you live in one of those. Some states mandate that the egg donor and the surrogate must be different women.
If you’re considering building a family with surrogacy, be sure to consult an attorney experienced in reproductive law in your state. You want to be sure the child will be legally your child and that the surrogate will not have parental rights. Your partner and you will need to understand the parental rights of the one who is not the biological father if you are married.
The cost of IVF with an egg donor and surrogacy can exceed $100,000, not including the medical care of the surrogate. You will need to investigate if your medical insurance will cover her and, if not, will need to purchase a policy for her care during pregnancy and birth.
Private adoption agencies in the U.S. facilitate the adoption of infants, matching birth parents with adoptive parents. Independent adoptions take place outside of an agency with the help of an attorney who specializes in this kind of adoption. International adoptions are usually managed by agencies. These can have many restrictions because the requirements both of the child’s country and of the parents’ country must be met, as well as the laws of the state where the parents reside.
Adoption laws are set by states, not by the federal government. Laws can vary tremendously from state to state. Recently some states have begun enacting laws to allow religiously affiliated adoption agencies or other private agencies to turn away LGBTQ prospective parents. Some of the laws also include foster agencies.
Adopting a child from a private agency or as an independent adoption can take a few months, or can take years. Much of the timing depends on the kind of baby you want: sex, race, ethnicity. Private adoptions can cost $20,000 or more.
Foster to Adopt
There are thousands of children in the foster care systems around the country who need and want a loving, forever family. Most of the children in foster care are not infants, and most who are immediately available for adoption are children 8 years old or older. Children whose biological parents’ rights have been terminated may be adopted quickly, while adopting a child you are fostering may take from one to five years. Fostering to adopt can be risky because the biological parents may re-establish their ability to care for the child or other family members may offer to take the child into their home. Fostering to adopt can be a slow process and may be stressful, but thousands of children have been adopted in this way.
Foster care is regulated and administered by states and, in some cases, counties. Fostering by LGBTQ couples is legal in all 50 states, but in some states foster care agencies can refuse gay prospective parents. There are challenges to foster parenting. The child may have been traumatized or is grieving for the loss of the birth family. But there are advantages in foster to adopt, as well, especially in cost—the cost of adopting is free or minimal. Also, foster parents receive extensive training on how to parent a foster child and usually have to be licensed.
Support for Building Your Family
A number of companies have begun offering family building benefits to LGBTQ employees, from coverage of IVF and surrogacy to help with adoption fees and parental leave. Ask your benefits manager if your benefits include family building.