Using Faith to Discriminate: Why Faith-Based Adoption Legislation Matters for All Adoptive and Foster Families

This week, Adoptions Together has been contacted by several LGBTQ families interested in pursuing adoption who’ve expressed concern about recent discriminatory legislative efforts in Georgia. Today, we focus on the broad sweeping impact of “faith-based” adoption legislation and how it effects all families.  This post was written by Adoptions Together Marketing Specialist, Samantha Skrok.

What’s Happening in Georgia?

Recently, the Georgia Senate passed Senate Bill 375, which would give private and public adoption and foster care agencies license to discriminate against couples based on their religious beliefs.  Known as the “Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act”, proponents of the bill claim it would allow more agencies to act in the interests of children, broadening opportunities for kids living in foster care to achieve permanency in stable homes.  Opponents of the bill point out that enacting such legislation closes the door on qualified parents whose faith doesn’t align with child welfare agencies and their employees, preventing them from serving as adoptive resources for children in need of families.

The Rise of Faith-Based Adoption Legislation

 

The total number of states allowed to discriminate against families based on religious beliefs comes in at seven (North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas).  Since the United States legalized same-sex marriage on the federal level in 2015, five states have passed laws allowing public and private adoption or foster care agencies to refuse services to clients based on their religious beliefs.  Alarmingly, Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, and Michigan have all passed faith-based legislation permitting agencies to refuse services to children in addition to potential adoptive families.  If we include Georgia, the first few months of 2018 could see Americans in eight states facing faith-based adoption legislation that targets families based on religious grounds.

 

Who Is Being Targeted by Faith-Based Adoption Legislation?

That’s a good question without a simple answer- the easy answer is that children waiting to be adopted by qualified families are the largest victims of faith-based legislation.  Nearly 118,000 children are waiting to be adopted from public foster care systems across the United States today.  Faith-based legislation allows both public and private agencies to reject potential adoptive and foster parents based on their religious beliefs.  The most common targets of faith-based legislation are LGBTQ individuals, like Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin whose application to foster refugee children through Catholic Charities in Texas was rejected due to their sexual orientation.  The result is that more children wait for longer periods of time to achieve stability in permanent families.

However, the Human Rights Campaign points out that faith-based legislation can be used to target families from all backgrounds.  In its brief “Disregarding the Best Interests of the Child: License to Discriminate in Child Welfare Agencies”, the HRC points out that, “Parents can be rejected because the agency has an objection to them for any reason, including interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection.”  This should be of concern for all families interested in growing through adoption or foster care.

Why is this a Concern for Ethical Child Welfare Professionals?

Simply put, children waiting for permanency need more qualified adoptive parents. Faith-based legislation does not achieve this- it does the opposite.  By working with all families, regardless of their religion, marital status, or sexual orientation, agencies grow permanency opportunities for children who desperately need them.  Research shows that LGBTQ youth in particular are over-represented in the foster care system, making them a vulnerable target for maltreatment and discrimination.  Faith-based laws that allow agencies to mistreat populations designed to protect them at the top level is a failure of systems by its very definition.

More than two million LGBTQ couples, individuals and families across the United States are interested in serving as family resources for children through adoption and foster care.  LGBTQ families are currently raising more than 3% of children living in foster care across the country.  The American Academy of Pediatrics supports full access to adoption and foster care rights for same-sex couples as part of promoting growth of stable and healthy families for all children.

 What Can You Do to Discourage the Passage of Faith-Based Adoption Laws?

1. Contact your elected representatives to voice concern for the growing trend of this discrimatory practice designed to target families and provide vulnerable children with less stable futures. Your voice is valuable. Find your elected representative here. Find your Senator here.

2. Support organizations like the Human Rights Campaign whose mission it is to protect the rights of families and children like yours who desire to grow through adoption.

3. If you’re considering adoption, choose an agency whose mission it is to provide services to all families, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Discrimination serves no one and limits our ability to make progress toward healthy futures for all families and children.  To find an agency that serves LGBTQ families as part of its mission, use the HRC’s All Children, All Families map.


Our Commitment to LGBTQ Families on January 30th, 2017

Adoptions Together and its staff are committed to standing in solidarity with all our LGBTQ clients, family members and fellow Americans during these tumultuous and terrifying times.  Fears of an imminent Executive Order from the Trump Administration that is harmful to the basic rights of LGBTQ individuals have compelled us to voice our support for our friends and community, as well as our reassurance that we will continue to provide comprehensive adoption services to LGBTQ families now and in the future.  This is our duty as ethical adoption professionals, and compassionate human beings.

 

Adoptions Together was founded twenty-six years ago in response to a lack of secular adoption agencies focused on making adoption and related counseling available to all women and families of every race, ethnicity, faith, culture, and sexual orientation.  We remain fervently committed to that mission in 2017, and stand beside our clients both as members of the LGBTQ community ourselves, and as allies dedicated to preserving the highest quality adoption and family placement services to LGBTQ individuals and families regardless of threats or attempts to encroach upon their human rights.

 

Adoptions Together believes that every child has the right to a loving and stable family.  In more than two decades placing over 6,000 children with permanent families, we have advocated for same-sex parents through our work with the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children All Families National Advisory Council, which created the groundwork for evaluating and strengthening adoption agencies’ competency to serve LGBTQ families nationwide.  Working with the HRC has taught us that we must constantly work toward improving inclusivity for all people. 

 

We maintain a strong network of adoption and family lawyers in all regions of the country to whom we refer same-sex parents when they have questions about topics like second parent adoption, step-parent adoptions, surrogacy, and other family issues.   Our work for the LGBTQ community is made stronger by our deep commitment to working with the most qualified professionals in family law and public policy.  More than ever, we are strengthening and continuing to cultivate these relationships.

 

As 2017 unfolds, we remain dedicated to your families’ safety in all spaces.  We encourage members of all communities- LGBTQ, cisgender, faith-based, and otherwise- to reach out to your congress-people to express the concern we all share for the targeted discrimination that is currently taking place in our country.  Through unity and strength of shared support, we will protect those who need it most and overcome the barriers being erected before our neighbors, family and friends.  


The Son with Two Moms: A Guest Post by Tony Hynes

This post was written by Tony Hynes, an author and adoptee.  His life story includes his birth mother’s mental illness, a tumultuous battle in the court system when his adoption was challenged by his birth family, and the unique perspective of being raised by two moms in a transracial household.  His book “The Son with Two Moms” is available on Amazon in print and electronic editions.  Check out Tony on Facebook.

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I’ve been asked about my family before. I understand why. People want to know about a family that isn’t like theirs (or is like theirs). They want to know what it’s like to grow up with two white moms. They want to know how I, a black man, see the world today after being raised by two white women. They want to know why I speak the way I do, why I am careful with my words, and why I decided to write a book. I never know exactly what to say, or exactly how to address every question they ask me. No answer seems full enough to address every point they raise. I try to search for the right balance. The answer has to be truthful, but educational, respectful, but confident.  It’s a line I straddle every time I tell my story and a line that many individuals from transracial families are familiar with.

I am college educated and am currently pursuing my PhD. I love to read. I love to play soccer and listen to music. I went camping almost every summer as a kid. I share much in common with some of the families who ask me questions about my upbringing. However, sometimes I sense they don’t feel the same connection. After a panel discussion a few months ago, for instance, a white father said to me “I have two adopted black sons. If they grow up to be like you that would be incredible.” Nothing about his statement was particularly alarming. However, the way in which he said it, with wonderment and an air of impossibility, was. It was as if he didn’t believe he could be a good enough parent to raise a black child as “healthy” as me. It was as if he thought I was an anomaly, a glitch in an otherwise flawed system that didn’t allow black boys to achieve greatness. One week later, a woman asked me if I had had any help writing “The Son With Two Moms.” When I replied that I did not her puzzled expression turned into a toothy grin. “Wooooow!” She said. “That’s so amazing.” I thanked her as she continued to glow. “So no one helped you write any part of it?” She said. “Nope.” I said. “Just me.” “Wow,” she said.

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