Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, marked the first day of National Foster Care Month by redoubling its efforts to fight against the proposed anti-LGBTQ child welfare bills in states including Kansas and Oklahoma. These bills would allow child welfare organizations -- including adoption and foster care agencies -- to turn away qualified prospective parents seeking to care for a child in need, including LGBTQ individuals, same-sex couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection. HRC is on the ground battling these discriminatory bills, which most harm the youth in the child welfare system looking for a loving, permanent home.
“In the United States, there are an estimated 430,000 kids in the child welfare system in need of a home, and potentially millions of LGBTQ adults who hope to build their families through adoption,” said Ellen Kahn, Director of the Children, Youth & Families Program at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. “On the first day of National Foster Care Month, HRC is redoubling its efforts to defeat the anti-LGBTQ bills that would keep these children out of qualified, loving homes. We hope that lawmakers in Kansas and Oklahoma will recognize the simple fact that children’s lives are not bargaining chips for legislators looking for cheap political points.”
HB 2481 in Kansas is pending action in conference after the Senate added license to discriminate language onto a House bill, which the House rejected. Similarly, SB 1140 in Oklahoma has passed both chambers and is also moving through the conference process. Each of these bills would grant a “license to discriminate” in the provision of child welfare services, which could allow a child welfare placing agency or organization to deny placement based on the agency’s religious beliefs -- a practice which could single out LGBTQ people and harm youth waiting for a home.
Child welfare organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Child Welfare League of America and the North American Council on Adoptable Children have condemned these bills. Child welfare services should be guided by the overarching principle that guides all family law: all determinations should be in the “best interest of the child.” It isn’t in the best interest of a child to deny them a qualified, loving family simply because that family doesn’t share all of the tenets of the placing agency’s faith.
HRC recently released a report, Disregarding the Best Interest of the Child: License to Discriminate In Child Welfare Services, detailing the harms caused by efforts to write anti-LGBTQ discrimination by child welfare agencies into law. Statistics suggest that an estimated two million LGBTQ adults in the U.S. are interested in adoption, but the LGBTQ community often remains an untapped resource when it comes to finding families for children and youth in foster care.
Research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, as many have been rejected by their families of origin because of their LGBTQ status, and are especially vulnerable to discrimination and mistreatment while in foster care. These bills will only exacerbate the challenges faced by LGBTQ young people.
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