There are an estimated 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system, 104,000 of whom are eligible for adoption. And as of 2013, there were more than 26,000 additional youth who “aged out” of the foster care system, putting them at high risk for poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and early parenthood.
Families already exist for these children. However, the current patchwork of state laws does a disservice to them by denying them access to permanent, safe and loving homes. Many state laws prevent well-qualified individuals and couples the opportunity to become foster parents or adopt simply because of their marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Every Child Deserves a Family Act, a bill introduced on May 19, 2015 in the House as H.R. 2449 by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA-05), and in the Senate as S. 1382 by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), would change this fact and open up countless opportunities to provide children with the homes and families that they deserve.
ECDF would prohibit any child welfare service provider receiving federal assistance and involved in adoption or foster care placements from discriminating against prospective adoptive or foster parents based solely on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status, or based on the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child involved. The bill also requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide support for service providers to ensure understanding of the legal, practice, and culture changes required by this Act in making foster care and adoption placement decisions. The General Accounting Office is also required to complete a study and report to Congress on whether states have substantially complied with this Act in eliminating policies, practices, or laws that deny adoption rights on the basis of these criteria.
PFLAG Talking Points
This bill increases the number of safe and supportive homes available to children. ECDF is a federal bill that increases the number of qualified individuals eligible to become adoptive or foster parents by restricting federal funding for states employing discriminatory practices in adoption and foster care placements based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. Enacting the bill would increase adoptions rates, as well as establishing permanency and decreasing risk factors for youth in foster care yielding an annual cost savings of $3–$6 billion.
This legislation is about putting the best interests of the child first. ECDF, a child welfare bill, promotes the best interests of the children in the foster care system by increasing their access to the safe and supportive homes of more than two million additional LGBTQ people who would consider serving as foster or adoptive parents but face barriers due to existing state laws, regulations and policies that prohibit them from doing so.
Right now, the lack of uniform protections eliminates good parents from opening their homes for completely arbitrary reasons. The majority of states lack non-discrimination policies and remain silent on how prospective LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents are to be considered. Moreover, many states like Florida, Utah, Mississippi, Nebraska and Utah have policies and practices that adversely impact LGBTQ and unmarried parents. This lack of clear guidance leaves children vulnerable to the individual biases of agencies and case workers and has resulted in children being denied the benefit of being considered for adoption or foster care.
LGBTQ parents are already successfully raising happy, healthy children.Approximately 1 million LGBTQ parents are already raising about 2 million children in the U.S. according to data taken from the 2000 Census. An estimated 27% of same-sex couples have at least one child under 18 living in their home. Some states already apply non-discrimination practices in their foster care and adoption practices to great success. Currently, some states—CA, MD, MA, NV, NJ, and NY—affirmatively allow same-sex couples to adopt jointly.
PFLAG National, in conjunction with Family Equality Council, is proud to co-lead a coaltion of organizations in support of ECDF, including:
Adoption/Foster Care and Child Welfare Organizations
Civil Rights Organizations
Faith Based Organizations
LGBT Advocacy Organizations
If you would like your organization to endorse the Every Child Deserves A Family Act contact:
Diego Sanchez, Director of Policy at firstname.lastname@example.org