A young gay man tells his parents about his sexual orientation, and one of the first things that springs to mind of his mother is: “But that means I won’t become a grandmother.” Hopefully this idea is slowly becoming a thing of the past, and changes into: “Fortunately we live in the Netherlands in the year 2017, and I’m curious to see whether you’ll end up having children, and how that will happen.”
What different routes are possible for gay couples to have children? For Gay News, Sara Coster outlined the current status and options. Currently, These are adoption, foster care, surrogate mothers, co-parenthood or using a donor.
March 11, Gay Parenthood Info Day
Meer dan Gewenst (the Dutch foundation for gay and lesbian parenthood) will organize a special day for gays with a desire to become a parent on Saturday, March 11. The day will start with the documentary “Het zaad en de 11 eitjes” (The Seed and the 11 Eggs) about a young gay couple with a great desire to have children, encountering many obstacles in their path. This is followed by an information meeting in which all options are discussed. “Hands-on” experts tell their story, and a lawyer specialised in family law will explain how the law works. Below you can find quick overview of the options a gay man has if he has a desire to become a parent.
The country of origin of the child determines whether you can adopt as a same-sex couple. This is only allowed in Portugal, South-Africa, the Netherlands, and the United States of America. If you want to adopt a child, you must submit a request for a permit in principle (beginseltoestemming). If you meet certain criteria (for example the age criteria), the first thing to do is go to an information meeting (€ 210,-). This is followed by five obligatory information meetings (€ 1385,-).
Next, a household survey will be undertaken by the Child Welfare Council. You have to indicate, among other things, what “special needs” you find acceptable. Think of mental or motor retardation or problems, and all kinds of diseases. If everything is in order, you will be issued a permit in principle, with which you go to a licensee. Then, the waiting period starts.
The costs of an international adoption from the United States (where most Dutch same-sex couples adopt from) are about € 60,000, sometimes even more.
The maximum age difference between the oldest parent and the child is forty years.
Sometimes children can no longer live with their parents, either temporarily or permanently. This perhaps is caused by parenting problems or an unsafe situation for the child in the family. The goal of foster care is that the child (if possible) will return to the real parents. You can sign up for full-time foster care (the child is 24/7 in your care), but also for weekend foster care, emergency care, or only for care during the holidays.
There is a large shortage of foster parents in the Netherlands. As foster parents, you will receive support as well as compensation. The real parents usually remain the legal parents.
A surrogate mother is a woman willing to carry a baby for a couple and give it up to that couple. Biologically, the child can have genetic material from one of the partners and of the surrogate itself for the other fifty percent (natural surrogacy) or has genetic material from an egg donor (IVF surrogacy).
The Dutch Criminal Code states that you cannot openly look for a surrogate mother in the Netherlands, and a surrogate mother may also not openly look for a couple. Also, mediation on a commercial basis between surrogates and prospective parents is not allowed. It is allowed to compensate the surrogate mother.
This means that you will have to look in your network to find a surrogate mother, or look into other countries. For example in some US states and Canada, this is easier. However, there are high costs involved, and you need proper legal assistance. In other countries it is cheaper, for example using “the Asian route.” However, that route is strongly advised against for various reasons, both the interests of the child and that of the surrogate mother are violated, and you can get into very serious legal problems, for instance in situations in which it is uncertain whether the child can get a passport, with all the negative consequences. Your child may end up in a children’s home and become stateless. So if you are considering surrogacy, come to Meer dan Gewenst for more information, and visit a lawyer specialised in family law and surrogacy!
If you did find a surrogate mother in your network, and she cannot conceive or does not want to conceive from her own egg-cell, or she is in need of IVF to get pregnant, all of the above are not possible in the Netherlands. So far, the only hospital that is allowed to do IVF this way is the VU, and this hospital only do this for couples that bring their own biological material (in other words a straight couple), and only when the intended mother has a special medical condition. All other couples (straight and gay), including surrogate mothers (and often egg donors), need to go abroad to for the fertilization.
If you are dependent on a foreign egg donor, cheaper countries cannot be considered by most couples as egg donors will remain forever anonymous (which incidentally goes against Dutch law, which says that the child has the right to know from whom it descends). The new position of the professional group (NVOG, the Dutch Association for Obstetrics and Gynaecology) leaves room for a second clinic to volunteer to do this fertilization, provided it meets certain conditions. The wait is for a second clinic to volunteer.
And as for finding an egg donor: you are allowed to search in the public domain, for example by simply browsing the website of Meer dan Gewenst!
You can agree with a single woman or lesbian couple on a joint custody. You get to know each other quite well, you talk a lot, discuss things, and you register the most important things with a specialized family law barrister or notary.
In joint custody, you share the parenting responsibilities. The child lives, for example, with his mother(s) half of the week, and the other half of the week with his or her father (s), just how you arrange it with all parties concerned. You take decisions together, share costs, and one of the fathers can acknowledge the child and get custody. The Dutch law does not (yet) allow a child to have more than two legal parents. Hopefully that will change soon.
You may also consider to become a donor for a single woman or a lesbian couple. You must agree on what you expect from each other in detail. You do not share the parenting responsibility that lies with the mother(s), but you can agree on how much contact there will be and how that contact will take place. Will your parents become grandparents? Will they visit birthdays? Will the child be spending the night at your place? Do you want to acknowledge the child? These agreements should be submitted to and made official by a specialized lawyer or a notary. If you want to play a part in their education, want to make decisions concerning the child, want to visit parents’ evenings, etc., looking for a co-parent is your best option.
The above options are described only briefly. For more information and “hands-on” experience stories you can visit a meeting of Meer dan Gewenst (for example on March 11) or book an appointment with Sara Coster, a coach for GLBTs with a desire to have children. See www.saracoster.nl
Do you already know that you would like to be a donor or want to be a co-parent, but are you still looking for the right woman or lesbian couple? Consider a speed date at Meer dan Gewenst on April 2, 2017. See the website of Meer dan Gewenst
The documentary “Het zaad en de 11 eitjes” will also be shown during the Amsterdam GLBTQ Film Festival in the Ketelhuis, on Friday, March 10 at 21:00.
Sara Coster is single and straight, and is co-parenting with a gay couple. In her book “De wens en de vaders” she tells the whole story (see www.saracoster.nl). She is working as a coach for GLBTs with a desire to have children. For Meer dan Gewenst, she organises speed dates for GLBTs with the desire to have children in order to meet each other.