Post submitted by former HRC Digital Media Manager Helen Parshall
Against the backdrop of National Foster Care Month, HRC and our partners have been hard at work to fight back against harmful child welfare-related legislation in states around the country.
These “licenses to discriminate” in the provision of child welfare services seek to enshrine discrimination into law by allowing taxpayer-funded government contractors to refuse to work with LGBTQ individuals, same-sex families or other qualified prospective parents who don’t meet a contractor’s religious criteria.
From organizing local volunteers to mobilize in support of LGBTQ youth to delivering testimony in the state capitol, HRC was proud to work with partners to fight off Tennessee’s attempt to pass such a dangerous bill.
Wrapped into Tennessee’s “Slate of Hate,” HB 836 / SB 1304 would have allowed state contractors who provide taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care services to refuse to make child placements with qualified, loving families if the family doesn’t share all of the agency’s religious beliefs.
Under these proposals, state-licensed child-placing agencies would be allowed to disregard the best interest of children and turn away qualified Tennesseans seeking to care for a child in need.
Thankfully none of these dangerous bills passed into law this year.
Additionally, HRC was disappointed when, in February of this year, Oklahoma lawmakers voted against HB 2533, a bill that would have partially repealed SB 1140, the state’s existing license to discriminate in taxpayer-funded child welfare services. HB 2533 would have limited SB 1140’s discriminatory scope to private service providers who do not receive state or federal taxpayer funds.
Stories like that of Lupe Ortiz-Tovar underscore the importance of this work.
“As a child, I think you remember, kind of, the honeymoon phase of going into a family, but it’s never yours,” she told HRC. “It’s really like you’re a visitor in someone else’s home, and you don’t know how long that’s going to last.”
These discriminatory bills would only exacerbate the challenges LGBTQ young people face in care and further restrict the pool of prospective parents, making it harder for all children to find their forever families.
These attacks are especially cruel, given that research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system.
Many of these young people enter foster care after experiencing family rejection because of their LGBTQ status and they continue to be vulnerable to discrimination and mistreatment while in care.
It is vital to speak out for LGBTQ youth and families not just this National Foster Care Month, but all year long. HRC’s All Children – All Families project helps agencies improve their services for LGBTQ youth in foster care.
If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a foster parent and supporting LGBTQ youth in care, check out HRC’s resources about foster parenting. This month be sure to also take time to watch “The F Word,” a powerful series chronicling the story of a queer California couple looking to adopt a child from foster care.
Learn more about All Children – All Families’ work to promote LGBTQ cultural competency in adoption and foster care at hrc.org/acaf. Want to stay up-to-date on All Children – All Families resources and activities? Subscribe to “Field Forward,” the program’s monthly e-newsletter at hrc.im/field-forward.