Talking Adoption on Capitol Hill
November 18, 2011 by Ellen Kahn, Director of the Children, Youth & Families Program
Yesterday I had the pleasure of being a panelist at a briefing on the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (ECDFA) for the GLASS Caucus (Gay, Lesbian and Allied Senate Staff). Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced this bill (S.1770) in the Senate for the first time earlier this month; Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) introduced the House version (H.R. 1681) in May. The ECDFA would remove discriminatory practices in foster care and adoption based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status, and states that don’t fully comply could be subject to a loss of federal funds. The timing for this briefing was ideal—this is National Adoption Month, a time to raise awareness about the 107,000 children and youth in foster care who have the goal of adoption, and to celebrate the thousands of thriving adoptive families, including LGBT families, that are part of the adoption community. We applaud Senator Gillibrand for her commitment to improving the lives of children and youth, and to creating a level playing field for all adults, single or married, LGBT or not, who are interested in becoming foster or adoptive parents.
My presentation focused on sharing examples of positive experiences from states and agencies that have incorporated HRC’s All Children All Families initiative. It is important for staff to know that there are resources to help enhance LGBT cultural competence among child welfare professionals. These are the type of resources that the Department of Health and Human Services could, once the bill is enacted, incorporate in providing technical assistance to states to meet the requirements of the legislation.
Joining me on the panel was Matthew Reynell of Rochester, NY. Matthew and his partner, Jaime Burgos, adopted their son James three years ago at age eight. When they first met James, he was living in a therapeutic residential facility; prior to that placement James had been in foster care four years—half of his life. As a result, James had a myriad of physical, behavioral, and educational challenges that would seem daunting to most parents, yet Matthew and Jaime knew from the first hour with James that they were meant to be a family. Three years later, James is thriving at school, reading and writing at grade level, very physically fit and active, and, most importantly, he knows he has a forever family that loves him. If Matthew and Jaime had not come forward to meet James, his fate may have been quite different. It is for families like these, and the thousands of children like James, that we must remove barriers and strip away bias and discrimination in foster care and adoption, and pushing for passage of the ECDFA is an essential part of this effort.
We look forward to continuing our work with Senator Gillibrand to build support for the ECDFA.
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