AUSTIN, Texas—A New Jersey court decision affirming a settlement that allowed two homosexual men to jointly adopt a two-year-old boy has come under sharp attack by conservative, pro-family groups. Catholic response, however, has been restrained and has focused on the broader issue of the redefining of the American family, rather than on the individual case of little Adam Holden Galluccio.
One prominent Catholic expert on adoption issues said the case should serve as a “call to action” for married couples, who are desperately needed to adopt sick or special-needs children.
The New Jersey settlement—which was affirmed by a state court Dec. 16 and resulted in the state agreeing to change its policy regarding adoption by homosexuals—was a landmark for the country. While most states allow homosexuals to adopt children, and some have even allowed joint adoptions in individual cases, New Jersey became the first state to explicitly mandate that gay couples be treated as full equals with heterosexual couples in adoption cases. Previously, New Jersey's laws were similar to most other states—homosexuals could be considered as adoptive parents, but they had to go through the process as individuals, rather than as couples.
“To adopt a child who needs a home is a generous act in itself,” said William May, the Michael J. McGivney professor of moral theol partners on the same level as heterosexual marriages,” Fournier said. “There's no question about that. It's part of a strategic effort by a portion of the homosexual community, and that's wrong. It's not only morally wrong but it's bad public policy and it's not good for children, who deserve the best environment. The statistics are clear: The best environment is a stable, two-parent, marriage-based home.”
Fournier said the case is another effort to redefine marriage and the family. “In a sense, we need to get beyond this case and move on to the bigger question,” he said.
The traditional definition of a family is a mother, father, and children, Fournier noted. There is room for divergences such as single parents and orphans, he said, “but we don't redefine the institution which the Church teaches is the first vital cell of society.”
Lost in the victory cheers of homosexual activists and the concerned cries of pro-family activists, is perhaps the most important issue, namely the shortage of willing adoptive parents for children with special needs.
Nationwide, there are about 500,000 children in foster care. Many are HIV-positive or have been victims of physical and sexual abuse, according to Maureen Hogan, executive director of Adopt a Special Kid (AASK) and a consultant to the Catholic Alliance on adoption and children's issues.
“These kids need more—not less—structure, support, and role modeling. But until we have 500,000 traditional ‘mom and dad’ families, then difficult choices are going to have to be made,” Hogan said.
The New Jersey adoption, Hogan said, should serve as “a call to action” for those who are concerned about its implications.
“There aren't enough parents to take these children—period. At a time when many people would not take children with HIV, the gay community stepped forward,” she said. “If we had enough parents to take these kids, this wouldn't be an issue.”
AASK places children with special needs for adoption throughout the country and maintains a national database of children and families. Founded by Bob and Dorothy DeBolt, it originally focused on placing war refugees and disabled children.
“As abortion became more available, the number of kids with birth defects has dropped. Over the last 15 or 20 years, as the foster care system in this country has exploded, we have focused on placing children who have been abused and neglected,” Hogan explained.
“Our great frustration is that while many families are willing to go overseas to adopt a child, often with special needs and at great expense, we have thousands of children in this country who need homes.”
Hogan agrees with those who criticize the New Jersey case on the grounds that married families are the best environment for children. But looking at statistics showing that 70% of children raised in foster care end up in jail, 50% become homeless and less than 5% graduate from college, she has a challenge for those same critics.
“For every person who criticizes this,” she said, “they really need to be thinking, ‘Is this something I can do myself?’”
Dennis Poust writes from Austin, Texas.