So you want to bring children into your life but don’t know where to start? Here’s a brief guide on your options and how to navigate them.

Fostering

If you’re wanting to care for a child but not willing or ready to make the legal commitment to adopt one, then fostering is for you. You’re opening up your home to allow young people who are in the foster care system to be a part of your family, and you’ll be expected to work in partnership with the child’s birth family and act as a mentor whenever possible.

To do so, you have to become an approved foster parent through the state of Georgia, which requires a 23-hour pre-service training and multiple home evaluations by a case manager. If single, you need to be at least 25 years of age and at least 10 years older than the child, and if married, you must be at least 10 years older than the child. There’s also a criminal background check, medical examination, drug screen and a list of references required.

Be prepared to pay for the background check, medical exam and drug screen, and while foster parents are not paid in Georgia, the state provides a yearly clothing allowance for the child as well as a reimbursement per diem to assist in meeting the daily needs of the child.

There are no laws in Georgia against LGBT individuals or same-sex couples fostering children.

Adoption

If you’re ready to make the commitment to care for a child permanently and establish a new legal family, then adoption is one of the options for you.

There are a few different ways this can be done in Georgia. You can do a public adoption through the Georgia Department of Human Services, Division of Family and Children Services, or go through a private agency who is licensed in the state to place children for adoption, or do an independent adoption where there is no agency involvement prior to the placement of the child.

The requirements to adopt are roughly similar to the ones listed above for fostering, and as far as costs go, be prepared to pay for the medical exam and drug screen, a home study fee, as well as legal fees so that the petition for adoption can be drawn up and you’ll have representation when you go to court for finalization of the adoption. But the state does offer adoption assistance, which includes financial and medical benefits, and there’s also an adoption tax credit of $2000 from the state, plus the federal government will provide an adoption tax credit for a special needs adoption.

There are no laws in Georgia against LGBT individuals or same-sex couples adopting children. However, finding organizations that are willing to work with LGBT people and are well-educated on the issues they face can sometimes be difficult. CHRIS Kids is one local private agency where that won’t be a problem, and in fact their client base is currently around 75 percent self-identified same-sex couples or LGBT individuals.

“Working through the approval process to become an adoptive or foster parent is a journey that takes effort and vulnerability on a parent’s part, everyone grows while you are working through this process, and it is important that parents and families receive that support from their case worker,” says CHRIS Kids adoption and family specialist Kalie Lounds-Giovanni.

Lesbians who want to have their own child

If you’re a lesbian or part of a lesbian couple and you want to have your own child, you first need to complete a fertility work-up to help establish the best treatment plan. The testing done on each partner depends on who will be carrying the baby. That person will have bloodwork done as well as a hysterosalpingogram to assess the uterus and fallopian tubes.

Next you need to select a sperm donor. Donors may be anonymous and chosen from an accredited sperm bank, or you may pick the donor. If the donor is known, make sure to address important legal issues like establishing legal parentage—this will increase the costs involved as well.

Then there are two options for treatment—intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). IUI is when the donor’s sperm is placed directly into the uterus when the woman is most fertile, prior to ovulation. IVF is the fertilization of an egg by sperm outside the body. Once fertilization and embryo development occurs, a number of embryos are transferred to the uterus in order to develop within the person carrying the pregnancy.

Expect a round of IVF treatment to cost around $12,000 before medications, which can run another $3,000 to $5,000.

Gay men who want to have their own child

If you’re a gay man or gay male couple and want to have your own child, the one who plans to be the genetic father first needs to complete a semen analysis to assess the fertilization potential of the sperm. However, some couples may both want a genetic relationship to the child, in which case sperm is used from both partners for fertilization of donor eggs.

Next, you need to select an egg donor, who may be anonymous and chosen from an egg bank or the donor may be known. If the donor is known, make sure to address important legal issues like establishing legal parentage—this will increase the costs involved as well.

Then you’ll have to identify a surrogate to carry the pregnancy. The Atlanta Center for Reproductive Medicine is one LGBT-friendly organization that can assist with locating reputable agencies to find a carrier.

This option will always involve IVF, which is described above.

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