Every Child Deserves a Family Act

The Problem

More than 104,000 youths currently in the foster care system are eligible for adoption. However, some states bar lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals or same-sex couples from serving as adoptive or foster parents.  Many public child welfare agencies still discriminate against qualified, licensed LGBT foster and adoptive families, refusing to place youth with these families or forcing them to go through a more extensive, time-consuming, and costly process before allowing placement. By denying LGBT families the ability to foster and adopt children, children are denied the right to safe, happy, and healthy permanent homes. LGBT youth residing in care settings outside the home face additional barriers to achieving long-term placements, because many foster and adoption agencies remain hesitant to place these youth with families and many fail to ensure their safety in those environments if they do.

Currently, federal funds go to supporting permanent adoption, and there are safety precautions in place to ensure that neither families nor youth are discriminated against because of race or religion. There are no such safeguards against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.

What is the Every Child Deserves a Family Act?

The Every Child Deserves a Family Act (ECDFA) prohibits any public child welfare agency receiving federal financial assistance from discriminating against any potential foster or adoptive family on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. In addition, ECDFA prevents discrimination against any foster youth because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill prevents these public child welfare agencies from engaging in such discrimination by allowing the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to withhold federal funding if evidence indicates that such discrimination is occurring. To make it easier for state agencies to comply, the bill mandates that HHS provide technical assistance to all covered agencies by outlining the various legal and practical changes the agencies will need to undertake. The bill allows an aggrieved individual to assert a violation of these prohibitions in a judicial proceeding.

Broad Support

The American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, the National Adoption Center, the Child Welfare League of America, and the American Bar Association all support adoption and foster parenting by qualified unmarried individuals as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender parents.

What is the Current Status of the Bill?

ECDFA was reintroduced on May 19, 2015 by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) in the House of Representatives and by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in the Senate.


For more information, please contact Read about other Federal Legislation pertinent to the LGBT community here.

Last Updated: August 28, 2015