Presentation Title: Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Adoptive Parents’ Experiences With Schools

Abstract: Little research has explored sexual minority adoptive parents’ experiences with their children’s schools. Such research is important in that these families may encounter marginalization in school settings. This qualitative study of 30 gay male adoptive couples, 40 female adoptive couples, and 45 heterosexual adoptive couples, all of whom have a child in kindergarten, explores parents’ experiences with their children’s schools.

Almost 90% of lesbian and gay (LG) parents were out to their children’s schools. Those who were not out tended to live in non-metropolitan areas, often in the South and Midwest. Three quarters of parents also had disclosed their child’s adoptive status to the school. In part this had to do with the racial differences between them and their children (over 50% had adopted transracially and thus the adoption was “obvious”). Those who had not disclosed their child’s adoptive status typically said that they did not want to negatively “bias” their children’s teachers (e.g., to form assumptions about their child based on adoptive status).

Three-quarters of LG parents had not encountered major challenges related to their sexual orientation in the schools. They typically attributed this to where they lived (“gay mecca”) or their child being enrolled in a private school. A minority of parents described their children’s teachers’ lack of experience with LG parents as a challenge. Several mentioned they were the first LG parents at their children’s school, which required them to do a “lot of education.” Other parents identified challenges related to heterosexist language at school (e.g., “mother/father” on school forms; teachers only referring to “moms and dads”). Some parents stated that other parents at their children’s schools had not seemed accepting.

Future analyses will address parents’ recommendations to teachers and schools for better accommodating LG adoptive families. Implications for school programs and public policy will be discussed.

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