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Social & Policy Issues
Fear of Discrimination Deters LGBT Americans From Fostering
Social & Policy Issues

Fear of Discrimination Deters LGBT Americans From Fostering

by Sarah Fioroni and Andrea Malek Ash

Story Highlights

  • Nearly four in 10 LGBT Americans have seriously considered fostering
  • Discrimination is a major barrier for potential LGBT foster parents
  • LGBT men more likely than women to worry about discrimination

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are significantly more likely than non-LGBT adults to express an interest in fostering children and to consider adopting from the foster care system. Thirty-seven percent of LGBT adults have seriously considered fostering a child, and 32% have seriously considered adoption, compared with 23% and 15% of non-LGBT adults, respectively.


Younger Americans are more likely than older adults to be interested in fostering or adopting -- those younger than 40 are seven percentage points more likely to be interested in fostering and 14 points more likely to consider adopting than those 40 and older -- and younger people are more likely to identify as LGBT. That said, the data show that interest in fostering is higher among LGBT than non-LGBT adults, regardless of age.

These findings come from the Americans’ Views of U.S. Foster Care study conducted by Gallup and Kidsave in March and April 2023. This study is part of Kidsave’s EMBRACE Project -- which stands for Expanding Meaningful Black Relationships and Creating Equity -- aimed at improving the outcomes for Black foster youth.

More than a third of LGBT adults say that discrimination they may face due to sexual orientation or gender identity is a major barrier to getting involved in foster care. In fact, those who are LGBT are more than three times as likely as non-LGBT individuals to say possible discrimination is a major barrier.


The same is true for adopting from foster care. More than a third (36%) of LGBT Americans say possible gender or sexual identity discrimination is a major barrier to adopting, compared with only 10% of adults who are not LGBT.

The study finds that fear of discrimination is a barrier across many identities and backgrounds. One in four Black Americans (25%) and 21% of Hispanic adults say racial and ethnic discrimination is a major barrier to providing foster care, compared with 13% of White Americans.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, there were nearly 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system as of 2021. With over 100,000 of those children in need of permanent families, it’s crucial to understand what is preventing interested Americans from participating in fostering or adoption programs.

LGBT Men More Concerned About Discrimination in Fostering and Adoption

More than four in 10 LGBT women (44%) have thought a lot about fostering or taken steps to get started, compared with 29% of LGBT men. Among the LGBT population, women (37%) are also slightly more likely than men (26%) to have considered adopting.

The data suggest that anticipated discrimination could be disproportionately hurting interest in fostering and adoption among LGBT men. Nearly half of LGBT men say discrimination based on gender or sexual identity is a major barrier to getting involved with foster care or adopting from foster care, while 22% of LGBT women have significant concerns about discrimination.


Inequalities in Access

Perceptions of discrimination persist when one evaluates fairness in the foster care system overall. Four in 10 (41%) LGBT Americans disagree or strongly disagree that adoption from foster care is equally accessible, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Only 21% of adults who are not LGBT say the same.


Bottom Line

As of 2022, Gallup finds that 7.2% of the U.S. adult population identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. That’s an estimated 18.7 million Americans. Those who identify as LGBT are much more likely than the average American to have seriously considered fostering or adopting. Yet a significant portion are hesitant to get involved due to the belief that their gender or sexual identity will be a barrier. This is especially true for LGBT men.

Fear of facing discrimination is holding back potentially millions of LGBT families and individuals who are serious about caring for children in need of a home. Family service organizations raising awareness about perceptions of discrimination and addressing those concerns could potentially boost the number of LGBT people open to taking the first step toward fostering children or adopting from the foster care system.

Learn more about the Americans’ Views of U.S. Foster Care study.


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