As an LGBTQ+ family, the path to parenthood is an intentional decision with its own special considerations. We talked to LGBTQ+ parents and groups that assist LGBTQ+ families to gather insights; here’s five tips we learned.
By Austin Ledzian
Becoming a parent can simultaneously be one of life’s greatest joys and challenges, as one moves into the new identity of parent and priorities shift from you to your child. As an LGBTQ+ family, this path is an intentional decision with its own special considerations. That was the impetus behind our book, Parent Plans: Thought starters for LGBTQ+ families wanting to have a child—to help guide your planning and support you on your path to parenthood. From the beginning, diverse voices were included in the creation of Parent Plans. We talked to LGBTQ+ parents to learn about the realities of their journey and gathered insights from groups that assist LGBTQ+ families. We found honest answers and are excited to share five tips we learned while creating the book.
Identify and lean on your support network.
Planning for a family can bring a range of seemingly contradictory emotions: excitement, fear, happiness, trepidation, anxiety, and joy. It’s a big change that warrants deep thought and consideration. We encourage you to take the time to flesh out these feelings, and identify and lean on your support network during this period of family growth. You may find it helpful to connect with LGBTQ+ parents for guidance and support. After all, it will be harder to find the time when you have a little one to care for!
- Research all the paths to parenthood.
There are many options available to LGBTQ+ families, including adoption, egg donation, donor sperm, surrogacy, and foster parenting. It’s important to take the time to consider the various choices for parenthood. Do you want biological children? Are you open to adoption? Surrogacy? Identifying what matters most to you, as well as weighing the financial and legal considerations of each possible path, will help you reach a decision about how to best grow your family.
- Familiarize yourself with the LGBTQ+ parenthood laws in your state and understand second parent adoption.
The legality of LGBTQ+ parenthood is rapidly evolving. Whether you are adopting or having a biological child, you’ll need to know the latest federal and state laws and how they affect each step in your path to parenthood. If you’re adopting internationally or using an international surrogate, you’ll also need to research the laws of your child’s birth country. You can work through these questions on your own, but if you have the resources, we recommend speaking with a lawyer who specializes in LGBTQ+ laws in your state.
Second-parent adoption is the most common means by which partnered LGBTQ+ parents establish a legal relationship with their children. Most LGBTQ+ parents should go through second-parent adoption, whether planning to adopt or have biological children. Even if both parent’s names are on the birth certificate, this may not guarantee parental rights for the non-biological parent if challenged in court. Second-parent adoption allows the “second” parent to gain equal parental rights given to the “first” (the biological parent or first to adopt).
Unfortunately, second-parent adoption is not yet legal in all states for LGBTQ+ families. If it’s not legal where you live, find out what other steps you can take to protect your family, such as a co-parenting agreement.
- Forecast the financial costs of growing your family.
Many people are taken by surprise at the financial costs of starting or growing a family. If you require fertility or adoptive services, there will be unique costs associated with those services. Plus, medical coverage for prenatal care, labor, and delivery vary widely. You should look into your health insurance to find out what is covered and by how much. And after you become a parent, children will add a financial load to the family. From bottles to bibs and daycare to diapers, kids are not cheap. To ensure you start parenthood on sound financial footing, it’s helpful to work through a budget that encompasses any preconception and birth expenses and your child’s first year with you.
- Imagine your life as a parent!
Picture your ideal life as a parent in five to 10 years. What will you do on a normal day? Where’s your home? What’s it like? If you’re in a relationship, it’s normal for your relationship to change after you add the new dynamic of co-parenting. What aspects of the relationship are most important for you to keep? What type of parent do you want to be? Look into parenting philosophies and see if there are any you want to implement. Talk to your parent role models to get insights about their parenting styles. Look into resources for children with LGBTQ+ parents. It’s fun to imagine what’s in store for your future as a parent!
If you proactively think through these considerations, you will take a huge leap in prepping your life for children! Try to keep that mindset alive as you move forward in your journey to parenthood.