Professionals’ experiences facing the challenges of same-sex couples adoption in Portugal
A growing number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons are forming families. In fact, according to the Williams Institute, in the United States six million children and adults have an LGBT parent and more than 125,000 same-sex couple households (19%) include nearly 220,000 children under 18 years of age (Gates, 2013). In Portugal, where the present study was conducted, several bills in favor of LGBT rights have been in the last years, such as same-sex marriage in 2010, and more recently, in 2016, both (a) same-sex couples’ adoption, and (b) access to assisted reproduction techniques to all women independently of their sexual orientation, marital status or fertility status. In view of this, professionals from areas such as psychology, social work, education, or health care must be prepared to support all children and adults, independently of their family configuration. A previous quantitative study (Gato & Fontaine, 2017), has shown that personal characteristics of future professional helpers influence their attitudes toward LGPF, particularly in what concerns the development of children. However, to our knowledge no study has explored in depth the experiences and beliefs of workers in the adoption system regarding same-sex adoption.
Our goal in this study was to explore these beliefs and experiences using a focus-group methodology. Although the change of the law in Portugal which lead to the inclusion of adoption by LGBT candidates, there aren’t any movement in order to prepare the adoption professionals to deal with the new challenges. Their interventions in the different phases of the process, beginning with the assessment of the candidates, the training of parents, the matching between child and family and the support during the post-adoption, raise several doubts about the specificities that would be important having in consideration. The focus group methodology with a professional adoption team of the same institution, facilitate the engagement of the people, and the availability to share own beliefs, feelings and anxieties about how to do a good job.
The main tips of the focus group explore four domains: (1) beliefs and eventual stigmas; (2) information and knowledge about the terminology of sexual and gender minority candidates and the issues in their families with kids; (3) difficulties experienced until the moment in their previous experiences; (4) needs identified to support their work. The results of this research are analyzed in order to develop guidelines for the training of adoption professionals, which can lead a non sexist practices and the integration of the useful specificities.