Yesterday, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced that they plan to reintroduce the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which would prevent child welfare agencies from discriminating against LGBT Americans who wish to become foster or adoptive parents.
There are currently 400,000 children in the foster care system and studies show that removing barriers that prevent LGBT people from fostering and adopting children could significantly help solve nation’s foster care crisis. Researchers estimated that as many as 2 million LGBT people are interested in adoption.
Whereas some states outright ban LGBT people from adopting, a vast majority of states are merely silent on the issue, which means it is perfectly legal for child welfare agencies to discriminate against potential foster and adoptive parents who are LGBT. This is especially problematic when states in need of adoptive homes for children consistently report finding interested, qualified families who want to adopt as one of their biggest obstacles. Discriminating against LGBT people willing and able to provide loving, stable homes to foster youth puts the best interests of vulnerable children at stake. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act would limit federal funds to agencies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status, and give children a greater opportunity to find foster and adoptive homes.
The agencies and programs that discriminate against LGBT people allege that it is not in a child’s best interest to be adopted by a same-sex couple, a concern which is not only insulting but completely unsubstantiated. In October, UCLA released a study that found that same-sex parents are just as effective at raising foster children as heterosexual couples and concluded that there is no scientific basis to discriminate against gay and lesbian parents. This holds true with the conclusions drawn by the American Sociological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and a host of other reputable groups that, “whether a child is raised by same-sex or opposite-sex parents has no bearing on the child’s wellbeing.”
If passed, the bill would also prevent child welfare programs from discriminating against children who are LGBT. LGBT youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, in part because of the discrimination they experience in their schools and families of origin.