July 23, 2018

Aderholt amendment would pose threats to same-sex couples and a child's best interest

Stephanie Luczak, LMSW and Jessica Nelson

Recently, the House Appropriations Committee undermined states’ ability to protect their residents from discrimination. On July 11th, the House Appropriations Committee voted in favor of an amendment that would allow private adoption agencies receiving federal funds to refuse to provide services to families seeking to adopt or foster solely on the basis of the agency’s purported religious belief that an individual or family is unworthy based on their religion, history of divorce, or sexual orientation. The amendment, attached to the funding bill for the Department of Health and Human Services, was introduced by Representative Aderholt (R-AL) who was recently appointed as a Co-Chairman of the House Coalition on Adoption.

The proposed amendment protects the funding of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies that choose to discriminate against same-sex couples and others that violate their beliefs, including single or non-Christian parents or parents with a history of divorce.  The legislative amendment would allow private adoption agencies to refuse to serve LGBTQ couples and other potential parents while receiving public funding for their services. Not only would this infringe on the rights of certain prospective adoptive parents, but it would obstruct efforts to maximize the number of children being adopted.

Any state or local government receiving federal funding would be punished for enforcing its non-discrimination laws and requires that state and local governments fund such agencies even though they have “declined or will decline” to provide services to certain individuals or families. The amendment would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to withhold 15 percent of a state’s federal child welfare funding if that state refused to enter into contracts with private adoption agencies that discriminate against families or individuals who offend the agency’s “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

If passed, this amendment would limit a state’s ability to ensure same-sex couples, LGBTQ individuals, single parents, and divorced individuals, non-Christians, among others, an equal right to adopt or foster children. The amendment would reduce the number of potential foster parents, limiting options for children in the foster care system who are waiting to be adopted. This would hinder the state’s ability to recruit diverse foster parents, as well as send harmful messages to LGBTQ youth about equality, identity, and acceptance. 

Research has consistently confirmed that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system. It is imperative that all youth, regardless of their chosen identity, can feel safe and supported in their environment. It is the duty of the state to improve the well-being of youth in foster care and place them into a stable and permanent home with loving caregivers. Recruiting more LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents not only increases the number of total possible homes for all foster youth, but if matched together, LGBTQ parents may provide an affirming and shared understanding of issues that LGBTQ youth may face.  

In fiscal year 2017, there were 5,878 children in Connecticut’s foster care system. Despite the high need for non-residential foster and adoptive placements, there is a consistent shortage of adoptive and foster parents, both in Connecticut and nationwide. To meet this need, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) has recently started an active campaign to recruit LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents, recognizing the fact that same-sex couples are both just as good as at parenting as, and more likely to adopt than heterosexual couples. 

Currently, while DCF recognizes the importance of LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents through this initiative, it does maintain contracts with private adoption agencies such as Catholic Charities, which has a history of discriminating against same-sex couples in other states. If the amendment proposed by Rep. Aderholt became law, the State of Connecticut would not be able to legally prohibit Connecticut branches of Catholic Charities from discriminating against same-sex couples in their adoption services. Catholic Charities provides a variety of services to families in Connecticut, including six adoption services sites throughout the state. It is important to note that Connecticut’s current anti-discrimination laws do not apply to religious entities.

The issue of same-sex adoption has also propelled amongst different states nationwide. States like Oklahoma and Kansas recently passed legislation that would allow child welfare agencies to prevent LGBTQ foster homes and adoptions based on religious beliefs. The ACLU reported that Massachusetts and Illinois both require child welfare agencies to accept all qualified families. Most recently, a federal judge ruled in a landmark case that all foster and adoption agencies must abide by the city of Philadelphia's nondiscrimination policies. 

What you can do.

Connecticut and all of the United States must continue to fight for equality for LGBTQ individuals and make sure that youth are protected and supported in the foster care system.

  • Thank Representative Rosa DeLauro for voting no to the Aderholt amendment, particularly if you live in the 3rd Congressional District.
  • Contact your U.S. representatives to vote against the amended FY19 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations spending bill when it moves to the House of Representatives.
  • If you live in Connecticut, contact your state legislator  about further strengthening protections for LGBTQ families in our state. 
Issue Area:
Child Welfare
Tags:
adoption, Federal, Foster care, LGBTQ