Not long ago, same-sex couples were legally barred from adopting children. Even today, fears of hostility may create a barrier for LGBT people who want to adopt. That's why parents who have gone through the process will be sharing their experiences at the National Adoption Center's upcoming LGBT Adoption Café in Philly.
"All the fears and apprehensions that I personally had were unfounded," said Jim Guyon, 52, of South Jersey, who has adopted two boys with his husband and is currently fostering two more that they plan to adopt.
"We didn't think we were prepared, but all that was needed was a loving, structured, stable home, and their lives have been turned around," he said.
The National Adoption Center is convening a panel on Nov. 30 to help reach out to prospective LGBT adopters who may be concerned about encountering biases.
"Some of them want to know whether it's going to be harder for them to adopt because they are gay or lesbian," said Gloria Hochman, spokeswoman for the center. "The answer is, 'Absolutely, it's open to you.' Fortunately, society is becoming much more tolerant."
Same-sex adoption has been legal nationwide since 2015, but was prohibited in many states before then.
Even in recent years, Guyon, who has been with his husband Jose Lugo for 13 years and legally married for three, experienced a "hiccup" while undertaking the adoption process.
"The first worker assigned to us, although I can't prove it, may have disapproved of same-sex couples," he recalled. "She delayed our process and our paperwork a little bit, and kept missing deadlines and delaying appointments. But once we brought that to the attention of her supervisor, everything went fine."
Guyon said getting to adopt children with his husband was the fulfillment of a life-long dream.
"As long as I can remember, I wanted children," he said. "Back in the day, that wasn't in the cards for folks like us. So you sort of put those dreams on the back burner."
"When we realized that this was possible for us that we can be married legally and have our own children, we jumped at the chance," he said.
Guyon and his husband, after learning that there were a large number of children aged 8 to 13 in the foster care system who were considered "at risk" of never being adopted, they decided to adopt from that age group, rather than seeking out a surrogate or adopting a baby from another country.
For LGBT individuals who come to the the cafe hoping to adopt, the center can help link them with welcoming agencies, Hochman said.
"Adoption is a scary process for anybody, it's not very different for anybody who is gay or lesbian," she said. "What's important is that they are going to offer a child love and stability and guidance like any parent would do."
The LGBT Adoption Café will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Museum, 123 S. Broad Street in Center City. Admission is free.