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The Every Child Deserves a Family Act
     

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 is one important bill that change this fact and open up countless opportunities to provide children with the homes and families that they deserve. You can help make this bill the law of the land.

 

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Every Child Deserves A Family

Bill Number

The bill was introduced in the House as H.R. 2449 by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA-05) on May 19, 2015, and in the Senate as S. 1382 by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on May 19, 2015. As of publication, the House version of this bill has 59 cosponsors and the Senate version has 16 cosponsors.

 

What this Bill Will Do

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.

 

What You Need to Ask For

Ask your Members of Congress to support this bill, especially if they serve on the House Ways & Means Committee or the Senate Finance Committee. If they are not a cosponsor of the bill, ask them to support it by cosponsoring. If they are already a cosponsor please be sure to thank them.

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.

Important Notes

  • As of publication, the House version of this bill has 59 cosponsors and the Senate version has 14 cosponsors.

 

  • The bill was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Finance.

 

  • A broad range of social service, professional and advocacy organizations have expressed support for LGBTQ parenting, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Bar Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of Social Workers, and the North American Council on Adoptable Children.

 

Other Federal Legislation

Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act

Bill Number

This bill was reintroduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-ME), and Sen. Kelly Avotte (R-NH) as S. 262 in the Senate on January 27, 2015. In the House, the bill was introduced by Rep. John A. Yarmuth (D-KY) as H.R. 1779 on April 14, 2015. As of publication this bill has 32 cosponsors in the Senate and 13 cosponsors in the House.

 

What this Bill Will Do

This bill will change the Basic Center Grant Program to include safe shelter to runaway and homeless youth and provide them with various services while in the shelter. It also extends the maximum length in which a youth can stay from 21 days to 30 days, and revises the Transitional Living Grant to give more services that help youth involved with more long-term programs develop basic life skills. These services include suicide prevention, mental health services, and services to prevent or treat sexual abuse, exploitation, violence, and trafficking in youth. The bill prohibits discrimination and refusal of services on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

What You Need to Ask For

Ask your senators and representatives to support and cosponsor this bill if they have not yet done so, especially if they are part of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Contact your representatives to explain to them the importance of having an identical bill in the House.

 

PFLAG Talking Points

  • Homeless LGBTQ youth need support. This bill will provide necessary services to LGBTQ youth who are either runaways or homeless

 

  • Homeless LGBTQ youth need accessible and culturally competent services. The services provided will be age, gender, culturally, and linguistically relevant, making them more accessible for all youth who are in need of them.

 

  • Homeless LGBTQ youth need up-to-date services and information. The services will be reviewed and updated to make sure that they are being as effective as possible

 

Important Notes

  • This bill has 32 cosponsors in the Senate and 13 in the House.

 

  • The Senate version of this bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

 

Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2015

Bill Number

This bill was introduced in the House as H.R.3060 by Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) on July 14, 2015. At the time of this publication, this bill has 15 cosponsors.

What this Bill Will Do

The Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act seeks to prevent abuse and neglect in youth residential programs. This bill would ban these facilities from discriminating against youth based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and other factors. The measure would also prohibit youth behavior modification programs from using so-called “conversion therapy” and other “harmful or fraudulent practices.”

What You Need to Ask For
Urge your senators and representatives to become a cosponsor of a bill that will make youth residential programs safer for all youth and ban these facilities from using conversion therapy programs, especially if they are in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. If they have already cosponsored the bill, make sure to thank them.

PFLAG Talking Points

  • Parents deserve the private right of action if their children are harmed. This bill allows parents to take a violation of this Act to court if they are excluded, discriminated against, abused, or harassed.

  • Conversion therapy is a harmful and wrongful practice. This bill prohibits youth behavior modification programs from using conversion therapy and other harmful or fraudulent practices that clearly injure youth.

  • Youth residential facilities need to be held accountable. This bill motivates youth residential facilities to tackle discrimination, harassment, and abuse by authorizing federal departments and agencies to cut off funding to programs found to be violating the Act.

Important Notes

  • At the time of this publication, there are 15 cosponsors in the House.

  • This bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Education and the Workforce.