Home Sweet Home: The Gay Adoption Debate
There are close to 500,000 young people currently in foster care across the United States, around 120,000 of whom are eligible for adoption every year. Finding homes is not always easy, and as things stand today, nearly 25,000 prospective adoptees will “age out” of the system without a family before the year is through.1 Yet the current patchwork of discriminatory state laws and policies is denying vulnerable kids access to safe, stable, and permanent homes just because of the sexual orientation or gender identity of the prospective parents.
We are simply not doing what’s in the best interest of the children.
More than 40 years of research2 indicates that the optimal development for children is based on the stable attachments to committed and nurturing parents, not on the marital status or sexual orientation of the parents. This research consistently shows that children raised by same sex parents have the same level of emotional, cognitive, social and sexual development outcomes as children raised by straight parents. It might not surprise you to know that research also shows that foster youth who never find a permanent home face a much higher chance of ending up poor, homeless, in jail, and a young parent.
Every child deserves a loving family. That’s why, in conjunction with the Union for Reform Judaism’s June ‘Diversity Month,’ every Wednesday for the next three weeks you will have the opportunity to learn more about this issue from the perspective of a different concerned party: a gay parent, a director of a foster care facility, and a school-board member.
I hope this blog series will act as a celebration of the diversity of the modern American family. There are already one million LGBT parents raising two million children in America today, and that number is growing. One in four children in this country is currently being raised by a single parent. Two and a half million families are headed solely by fathers. One and a half million kids are being raised by grandparents. The fact is, there is not one right way to raise a family. Millions of loving couples and individuals are doing it their way, and doing just fine.
But in recent weeks, we’ve seen attempts by lawmakers at the state level to create controversy over whether qualified parents, who happened to also be LGBT, should be able to adopt. In Arizona, the State Legislature just passed SB 1188, a bill that mandates the Arizona Department of Economic Security and adoption agencies to give primary consideration to the placement of a child with a “married man and woman.” This could easily disincentivize prospective parents from providing much-needed homes to foster children throughout Arizona.
Currently, Florida has a statutory ban prohibiting all LGBT people from adopting, and Utah and Arkansas have laws barring individuals who live with unmarried partners (same sex or different sex) from adopting or fostering. Such laws unashamedly place discriminatory ideology above the best interests of a child in need of a family. It takes experts to make adoption decisions. Blanket adoption bans allow politicians to take these decisions out of the hands of the people most qualified to make them. The majority of states lack non discrimination policies and remain silent on how prospective LGBT parents should be considered. This leaves applicants open to the individual biases of agencies, and has resulted in many vulnerable children being denied a loving home.
The Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R. 1681) is a federal bill that restricts federal funding for states employing discriminatory practices in adoption and foster care placements based on the sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of the prospective parents or the foster youth. It promotes the best interests of the children in the foster care system by increasing their access to safe and supportive homes. There are an estimated two million additional LGBT people who would consider serving as foster or adoptive parents but currently face barriers. In fact, if ECDF was enacted today, approximately 1000 additional children would move from foster care to adoption annually. That’s a federal saving of approximately $16,700 per child or $16,700,000 per year. It’s also 1000 happier, more productive young citizens.
This legislation is modeled on proven existing federal laws like the Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994, which prohibits organizations receiving federal funding from engaging in racial and ethnic discrimination when making placement decisions. Importantly, the law only deals with public adoptions. ECDF has no impact on private adoptions and religious charities are free to continue operating as they always have.
In his proclamation during National Adoption Month in 2009, President Obama stated, “we all have a role to play in ensuring that foster children have the resources and encouragement they need to realize their hopes and dreams.”3 All of us. Many children in the foster care system have already had a difficult start in life, and the longer they remain there, the less time they have to live the life they surely deserve.