By Glen Bradley, New Ways Ministry, September 17, 2016
In response to the Czech Republic’s court decision to affirm the adoption rights of an individual in a same-gender partnership, Bishop Vaclav Maly—chairman of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Czech Bishops’ Conference—stated:
“The model of the family, constituted by a man and a woman, has been proved over thousands of years and shown by numerous expert studies to serve a child’s physical and psychological needs best,” according to an article in The Tablet.
According to NBC News, in June 2016 the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic struck down a law which kept people in legally recognized same-gender partnerships from adopting children. The Czech Republic is a mostly agnostic nation, but Catholicism is the largest denomination. The nation has seen little change from their landmark decision in 2006 to create a “registered partnership” class for same-gender couples. Registered partnerships are similar to marriages but with fewer rights, such as–until recently–not having the right to adopt children. The previous law, however, did allow single LGB people or same-gender couples not in a “registered partnership” to adopt as it only restricted those in “registered partnerships.” The court’s June 2016 decision allows one member of a registered partnership to adopt but still does not yet allow both partners to hold joint custody.
In his statement, Bishop Maly said recent increases in child abuse and neglect require increased dialogue on the country’s adoption system. But while Maly’s observations are accurate, research shows LGB adoptive parenting may, in fact, be part of the solution to this problem.
According to SOS Children’s Villages, the world’s largest charity working with orphaned and abandoned children, the Czech Republic relies on institutionalized care (e.g., orphanages) for orphaned and disadvantaged youth instead of foster care systems. Institutionalized care, according to Dr. Victor Groza, the Grace F. Brody Professor of Parent-Child Studies at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, causes problems with developmental, physical, psychological, social and brain health. Dr. Groza stated, “The regimentation and ritualization of institutional life do not provide children with the quality of life, or the experiences they need to be healthy, happy, fully functioning adults.” They are also unable to form strong and lasting relationships with adults, leading to severe problems with socialization, primarily building trust and lasting relationships amongst adults and children alike.
Not only is the Czech system inherently harmful to children because it is institutionalized, but, as SOS Children’s Villages claims, Czech institutions also fail to meet the children’s basic needs because the facilities are too large, not adapted to individualized care, do not allow children to make any choices of their own, and provide only minimal to contact with the outside world, including their siblings.
Dr. Petra Vrtbovska from the Prague Institute for Foster Care provided a descriptive diagnosis of Czech child-support services:
“In the Czech Republic children’s homes still look very, very old-fashioned. There are still thirty, forty or fifty children in one big building… They are moved from one section to another, from one institution to another and combined with the original trauma this type of life-style leads to future disasters. Most of these young people are seriously disturbed. They have got clothes and they are not hungry but emotionally and socially these young people are not able to function which creates an enormous ongoing trauma in them.”
Apart from the emotional damage Czech institutional care inflicts on children, the system also has a wider impact on Czech society as a whole, says Vrtbovska:
“It is also very difficult for society because these people end up in the streets, on drugs, in psychiatric clinics, prisons… so it creates very big problems on both sides. But I always tend to pity those poor young people more because they suffer enormously and society should do something about it when they are young. It is very difficult to do something about it when they are twenty-five.”
SOS Children’s Villages adds, “when the children leave these institutions, they are not ready to live independently… 41% end up committing a crime.”
Vrtbovska also found that many children are overlooked by adults seeking to adopt. She explained, “there are a lot of couples here who want to adopt children but these people usually want healthy, white, newborn babies… Roma children account for 60% of all residents in care facilities.” Children with disabilities or from migrant or Roma backgrounds go overlooked.
Vrtbovska attributes this discrepancy to:
“a hidden prejudice against Romany kids – the racist belief that every Roma kid will steal, every Roma kid is lazy. So there is prejudice…. Romany children [who] end up in an orphanage have little chance of ever finding a new family.”
Amongst this Czech childcare crisis, Bishop Maly insisted heterosexual parents are the only safe option for children who would supposedly be endangered by same-gender parents. However no such proof is found in the Czech Republic’s system, a system hampered by prejudices based on race and physical ability from both caretakers and prospective adoptive parents alike. Heterosexual couples applying for children have yet to supply a sufficient number of homes for these children. Same-gender couples could offer the needed homes.
According to the What We Know Project, the Columbia Law School’s Public Policy Research Portal, “research forms an overwhelming scholarly consensus, based on over three decades of peer-reviewed research, that having a gay or lesbian parent does not harm children.” While four studies concluded opposite-gender parenting is better than same-gender parenting, the What We Know Project discredited these as, “so misleading as to be inaccurate,” since they did not establish key controlled variables between opposite-gender parents and same-gender parents.
On the other hand, the What We Know Project found 74 studies showing no significant differences in child development, educational outcomes or health between same-gender and opposite-gender parents. CNN reported that the most recent study—which was released in April of 2016 in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics—concluded, “children of same-sex parents are just as healthy emotionally and physically as the children of different-sex parents.”
Other studies have shown same-gender adoptive parents tend to be more involved in parenting, adopt more disadvantaged children and allow open relationships with birth parents. In a Live Science interview, Abbie Goldberg, a psychologist at Clark University, Massachusetts, who researches same-gender couple parenting, said:
“Gay parents ‘tend to be more motivated, more committed than heterosexual parents on average, because they chose to be parents… Gay parents, rarely become parents by accident, compared with an almost 50% accidental pregnancy rate among heterosexuals.”
“If same-sex marriage does disadvantage kids in any way, it has nothing to do with their parent’s gender and everything to do with society’s reaction toward the families.”
Bishop Maly’s statement, while intending to support Czech children needing adoptive parents, ignores the enormous potential same-gender couples offer. The bishop suggested a “deeper understanding of humanity” is needed by society. Maly should reflect on his own words before speaking on topics he has yet to fully research or understand. Perhaps this situation is an opportunity for our hierarchy to discover that prioritizing outdated family models over the needs of our flock can only lead to one end: separation of church and reality.