Adolescence is an important time in anyone’s life, from the physical changes we go through to the start of understanding ourselves better, all as we transition into adulthood. During this transition, many from within the LGBTQ+ community become much more aware of their sexuality and/or gender identity. Though attitudes worldwide are becoming more progressive, there is still a risk for many young adolescents that they will face rejection from their families just because they accept who they are and want to live their true and authentic lives. Coupled with the current trend occurring around the world, in which people have children much later in their lives, there is a real risk that many young people could be adult orphans at a critical time in their lives.
A family is much more than a bloodline or genealogical connection to one another, as family is more about an emotional connection and bond. Each family member plays an important role, from the older members, offering guidance and support to the younger members, providing insight into an ever-changing world, and supporting more senior members, especially in the later years of their lives. Being part of a family gives people a sense of belonging, a strong support network of caring people, and a framework for every family member to follow for the rest of their lives. You are typically born into a family, but what do you do if you are alone? And is adoption even an option as an adult?
The term adoption relates to the legal process of taking responsibility for another person, usually a minor (someone under the age of 18). Anyone over the age of 18 is typically classified as an adult in most countries, which means they can adopt and take legal responsibility for another person. Whenever an adult adopts, they agree to accept responsibility, both financially and emotionally, for the adoptee for the rest of their lives. Though the legal obligations change when a minor becomes an adult themselves, there are still legal implications, which will vary by country, typically in matters such as inheritance, medical decision-making, and even access to grandchildren. Adopted individuals, adults, and children have the same legal rights, protections, and privileges as biological children in nearly all countries worldwide. For most countries, the ability to adopt stops when an individual becomes an adult; however, adult adoptions are legally permitted in
- United States of America (USA)
Family you choose
According to research carried out by UNICEF, it is estimated that there are over 153 million children under the age of 18 that are orphans worldwide. Most countries are also seeing a common trend in which people are having children much later in their lives and the rise of one-child families. With an average life expectancy of 77 for adults, all attribute to the increase and likelihood that someone in their 20s and 30s is more likely to become an adult orphan, all alone at an important time in their lives. Many within the LGBTQ+ community, even today, still face the reality that by ‘coming out’ to family members, they risk being rejected and disowned. According to research carried out by the Family Acceptance Project (https://familyproject.sfsu.edu/news-announce/family-rejection-lesbian-gay-and-bisexual-adolescents-negative-health-outcomes), they found that: -
- Higher rates of family rejection during adolescence were significantly associated with poorer health outcomes for LGB young adults
- LGB young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse, compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection
- Latino males reported the highest number of negative family reactions to their sexual orientation in adolescence
Young, alone, and at a crucial stage within their lives, it is understandable why many long for loving and caring family units. So, in the absence of any biological family, they may look to form one themselves with like-minded and caring people they meet along the way. Families we create is not a new concept within the LGBTQ+ community; however, they are usually informal arrangements. If we wanted legal recognition, what are the implications when things become official?
Legal & Later Life
In countries such as the USA, adult adoption in the past was used by a small group of people from the LGBTQ+ community, typically, before the legislation of same-sex marriage was implemented. Adopting a loved one gave their partner rights and protection under the law; however, it also created problems, the most significant issue relating to the nature of the relationship. When a person adopts, even an adult, the adoptee has the same rights and legal recognition as biological children. Even though all those involved are in a consensual sexual relationship, they are effectively breaking the law by being physical with one another by committing incest. With the barriers relating to same-sex marriages now no longer a problem in many countries, the route of adult adoptions for this purpose would no longer need to be used to obtain legal recognition for their partner.
Adult adoption today has many merits, especially for those in long-term, loving friendships and when it comes to beneficiaries and next of kin. One such example is when visiting a person while they are in hospital, often visitations are only open to close family members, so even though the person may be the closest thing they have to family, they would not have any visitation rights (some hospitals are likely more flexible in certain situations). Often, especially in difficult life and death situations, partners and family members are asked to make decisions regarding a person’s care or end-of-life requirements, even asking biological family members to make decisions even though they have been apart for years. People that are alone, those who have multi-generational friends, especially where there is a close bond, could obtain legal recognition for those they consider family.
Given adoptees have the same rights as biological children, adult adoptees would be able to handle a person’s affairs, from legal to medical matters, as well as entitlements to their finances and estate. Not only financial or legal advantages, but for foreign nationals, many would be able to apply for citizenship based on their adopted parents’ residency rights. Adult adoptions can offer many benefits but at the same time present many risks, from exploitation and abuse by unscrupulous people looking to take advantage of someone in a vulnerable position.
You do not need to be blood relatives or even adopt or be adopted to create a family. You only need a group of people who care for one another and cannot even imagine not being part of that person’s life. The families you create can help combat loneliness, give people a vital support structure, as well as special people to celebrate holidays with, and so much more. Adoption is an option but can be complicated and open to abuse for some or all those involved. Not all countries allow adult adoptions, and those that do will likely have unique requirements and criteria.
Adult adoption is a route that will not suit all people; however, the most important thing is to be surrounded by people that you care for and who care for you. People that support, guide, and look out for your interests and love you for who you are unconditional, as family is much more than just bloodlines and genealogy. No matter your situation, remember you are not alone, and there are people out there who care for you; you just might not have met them yet.