Every Child Deserves a Family Act Reintroduced
May 17, 2013 by Ellen Kahn, Director of the Children, Youth & Families Program
Today marks the reintroduction of the bipartisan Every Child Deserves a Family Act, sponsored by Reps. John Lewis (D-GA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). The inspiration for this important legislation could not be clearer or more urgent. At any given time in this country an estimated 400,000 children and youth are in foster care, and on average at least 100,000 each year are in need of a permanent adoptive family. When we fail to find permanent families for these youth, thousands “age out” every year without the anchor of a home base, someone to rely on over the long haul.
We know that a significant number of youth in foster care-- especially teens-- identify as LGBT and often face longer waits before being placed with a foster or adoptive family. Why? Because we don’t have enough licensed foster and adoptive families who are willing or prepared to support an LGBT youth. We also know that LGBT youth may choose not to disclose their identity for fear of not being placed with a foster or adoptive family; no young person should have to choose between hiding who they are and having a loving adult or adults to care for them, particularly when many have already been rejected or neglected by their family of origin. In addition to addressing the needs of LGBT youth in foster care, this legislation would remove obstacles faced by qualified LGBT individuals and couples who want to build their families through foster care or adoption.
Not only are LGBT resource families often a good match for LGBT youth, but by encouraging and supporting all prospective LGBT parents we create a larger pool for all children and youth in care. A recent report from the Williams Institute found that 2 million LGB adults are interested in adoption; if even a tiny percentage of us went through the process of getting licensed as foster or adoptive parents we could dramatically reduce the number of children and youth who are waiting for a loving, permanent family. This too was the inspiration for the launch of HRC’s All Children—All Families initiative in 2007 which provides a framework for foster care and adoption agencies to put in place LGBT inclusive policies and practices.
Since 2007 we have had over 70 agencies join us in this effort, and 30 thus far have earned our “seal of recognition” for their leadership in supporting LGBT foster and adoptive families. We have trained thousands of child welfare professionals who are eager to create a more welcoming agency and to recruit and retain LGBT families. The ECDFA would provide the ultimate motivation for state and county agencies to do this work, particularly in parts of the country where there is greater resistance to embracing LGBT youth and families. A companion measure, sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is expected to be introduced in the near future. We applaud our elected officials who are supporting this legislation and we congratulate the foster care and adoption agencies that have already taken the lead in establishing fairness and best practices with the LGBT community.
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