Child Abuse Study Findings: Zero-percent chance?
A new study, fresh from the Williams Institute at UCLA, is making headlines these days.... 0% of Adolescents Raised by Lesbians Have Been Physically or Sexually Abused by Parent. According to an exhausting, extensive longitudinal study of a whopping 78 adolescents (39 girls and 39 boys) raised by lesbian mothers, none reported having ever been physically or sexually abused by a parent or other caregiver. This zero-percent report contrasts with the findings of another older study that states 26% American adolescents (235 girls and 199 boys) reported parent or caregiver physical abuse and 8.3% reported sexual abuse. On paper, the difference in abuse-rate is amazing, and in some ways, not at all surprising, especially if the children reporting felt as though growing-up their homes was fun, safe, loving environments. Enter the abused adoptee's perspective on life, home, and family-findings.
While it's true (to date) PPL does not have one abused adoptee case that features a 'lesbian mother' as the charged child abuser, it's also true the sexual orientation of abusive mothers, like foster/adoptive mommy Eunice Spry, Jessica Banks, and other single-mothers, goes without documented mention. Were any of those adoption agency approved abusive single-women lesbian? Reports do not state. Meanwhile, on the flip-side of the homosexual coin, PPL, does have two abuse-cases featuring agency-approved homosexual men. One case comes from the UK and the other hails from the USA. Once again, there could be more adopted children abused by gay father-figures and/or their partners, but that can't be confirmed just yet because a) not all abuse cases in adoptive homes go reported and b) the sexual orientation of abusive adoptive parent-figures and/or their partners in our collected abuse cases often goes unmentioned (not important?). At this point, it's important to point-out and note a key troubling influencing element that continues to exist in modern-day adoptive homes. It's often assumed once the adoption agency affiliated home-study is complete, and PAP's have been approved, all will be safe and good for the child put in that 'chosen' home. In foster-to-adopt cases, where social service visits are more of the main-stay, once an adoption is made final, all social worker visits end. In many cases, (as exampled in various investigated news reports), this is when the real trouble for the trusting placed child begins; once those approving agency visits stop and critical observations end, abuse tends to escalate, much to the terror of a child who may or may not have been abused before.
My point is simple: for the sake of all children in and out of family services, more child abuse/family study is needed, before and after birth/placement, and no group should be excused from long-term equal investigation.... especially adoptive parents, regardless of marital status or sexual orientation. From a home-study perspective, findings from a report focusing on voluntary confessions coming from 78 adolescents, all denying any form of abuse, should be read with scepticism and a raised eyebrow. [Imagine if 78 home-schooled teens said no abuse took place in their chosen homes.... what are the chances the confessions coming from the abused would be believed?]
Last but not least, when reading reports generated by any group, numbers in a studied-group matter. If the Williams study had 434 participants, (not 78), would the zero-results have been the same? As an adoptee, I understand some people need to prove one's worth and ability more than others... I also understand the lesbian community wants to be seen and treated as hetero equals in Adoptionland. The burden to prove decency is great for women wanting a child without an unwanted male-partner. Having positive studies reflecting exceptional parenting skills is required to quiet the many nay-sayers claiming homosexuality automatically equals pedophilia and child abuse. The problem is, a study with major flaws will not be respected by many religious / hetero-groups hell-bent on proving gays have no place adopting children. Of course, there's an irony to all this... I am often amused by the fact many holier-than-thou wives and husbands can be found discussing the adoption process and they will be quick to complain about the home-study because it's invasive, insulting, uncomfortable, and it violates a person's right to privacy. The way I see it, if we're going to do fair comparative abuse studies, for the sake of children, the number of participants in studied groups should be equal/balanced, with no special favors or allowances given to any being questioned. No two ways about it in Adoptionland, requirements needed to meet certain ideals or standards should be universal; if an equal right to adopt is going to exist for the GLBT community, more people need to accept no PAP should be favored or preferred because of race, religion, or marital status.
All in all, do I think the latest lesbian-parent study is a useful tool in the world of collected home-child studies? I believe in spite of its many flaws, it has its merits. I don't think the findings should be taken as the gospel truth and I don't think it should be seen as the final word in lesbian family abuse-studies. In fact, I believe it would be a huge mistake if members in the lesbian community use/promote this limited study (with 'zero percent findings') as 'documented proof' for all to read, suggesting lesbian couples make ideal 100% abuse-free adoptive parents. Instead, a bigger more open-minded perspective needs to be embraced and shared. Using baby-steps, I think the Williams study can and should be used as a useful starting discussion point...in all sorts of social circles.... encouraging more to discuss what elements create a safe loving home for all in the family to enjoy. What is needed to create an ideal (not perfect) family portrait for a child in want and need of a good parent? Truth be told, I think the answers coming from angry adoptees may surprise a lot of very traditional people.