House Bill Aims to Remove Barriers to Finding Loving Homes for Children
March 11, 2010
Every Child Deserves A Family. Who could argue with that? With over 120,000 children and youth in foster care in need of a permanent family we have the moral imperative to insure that each and every qualified adult or couple, single or married, gay or straight, who wants to provide a stable, loving home, can do so. As a result we can ultimately reduce, if not eliminate the long wait for a “forever family” so many foster children continue to endure. Since 2007, HRC’s “All Children—All Families” initiative has been addressing this issue by helping to transform the policies and practices of many child welfare agencies. Our Promising Practices Guide has been distributed to hundreds of child welfare professionals across the country, and over 45 agencies have made a public commitment to achieve the ten benchmarks that measure the “gold standard” for working with LGBT foster and adoptive families. We are encouraged by the increasing acceptance of the LGBT community as a valuable resource to children and youth, and to the recognition by many agency leaders that it is essential to establish explicit non-discrimination policies, a welcoming environment, and to provide LGBT cultural competence training for their staff. Yet many agencies and professionals who truly want to include and support LGBT families do not have the support of their state administration, or the weight of written policies conducive to public engagement with All Children—All Families. This effort got another big boost yesterday with the re-introduction of the “Every Child Deserves a Family Act,” initiated by Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif.. This legislation is intended to remove the discriminatory and biased policies and practices that still exist in many public child welfare agencies, and to leverage federal funding by encouraging states to place children and youth with qualified, licensed LGBT foster/adoptive families and to insure that LGBTQ youth in foster care are placed in supportive, affirming foster and adoptive homes. It comes at a time when the 30+ year ban on “gay adoption” in Florida is being seriously challenged and may be overturned in the Florida Supreme Court, and when the leading experts in child welfare policy routinely advocate for inclusion of LGBT foster/adoptive families and adherence to “best practices” when working with LGBTQ youth. Public opinion is also shifting on this issue, with the majority of Americans opposing any outright bans on LGBT adoption, and most recent attempts to limit or ban adoption meeting strong opposition from not just the LGBT community, but from the child welfare professionals who know from their own experience that we are a great resource for kids. We are hopeful that the “Every Child Deserves a Family Act” will enhance the efforts already under way by many “pioneering” state agencies and child welfare professionals who value LGBT families, and expand opportunities for children and youth across the U.S. to become part of a family. HRC applauds Rep. Stark and those members who joined him in sponsoring H.R. 4806 -- Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Judy Chu (D-CA), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), John Lewis (D-GA), and Linda Sánchez (D-CA) – for standing up to end discrimination against LGBT families.