Storm Clouds Brewing Over the Capital

A piece of legislation recently introduced in Congress carries a name any orphan advocate could support:  “Every Child Deserves a Family Act.”   The bill, however, could strike a crippling blow to Christian foster care and adoption agencies across the U.S.   By attaching new strings to funds the Federal government provides to States, this measure would effectively ban government partnerships with any public or private agency that chooses not to place children with same-sex couples.

This bill is troubling on many fronts.  It would not only cut off adoption and foster care nonprofits that hold Christian convictions from receiving direct Federal grants.  State and local governments would face losing critical funding from the Federal government if they entered any more than the most arms-length partnerships with these groups.  Furthermore, government policies always echo beyond government; many foundations and private funders would likely redirect funds away from groups suddenly deemed by government to be unworthy of partnership.

Even many people who don’t agree with the Christian commitment to traditional marriage will likely be struck by the irony.  While claiming to advance tolerance, this legislation works to marginalize groups because of their sincerely-held convictions.  While purporting to value diversity, it seeks to cut off a large and vibrant segment of the nation’s response to the needs of foster youth.  And while declaring its goal as being to help children find families, it essentially erects barbed wire between government offices charged with finding homes and the organizations and families that have proven most willing to provide them.

The following comes from the statement of Congressman Pete Stark as he introduced the bill:

…Currently, over 65,000 adopted children and 14,000 foster children are living with a gay or lesbian parent.  Studies suggest that upward of 2 million gay and lesbian individuals are interested in adopting or fostering a child.  Yet, statewide discriminatory bans and the practices of individual adoption agencies have resulted in fewer children being placed in safe and permanent homes.

Congress invests over $8 billion in the child welfare system each year and we should not accept policies that use Federal funds to enact barriers to adoption and close the door to thousands of potential homes.  Multiple studies have found that adopted and foster children raised by gay and lesbian parents fare just as well as their peers being raised by heterosexual parents.

When considering a potential placement for a child, the only criteria should be what is in the child’s best interest and whether the prospective parents can provide a safe and nurturing home.  Bigotry should play no part in this decision.  That is why I am introducing the “Every Child Deserves a Family Act.” This legislation would simply prohibit any entity that receives Federal child welfare funds from denying or delaying adoption or foster care placements based solely on the prospective parent’s marital status or sexual orientation.  States and child welfare agencies that fail to end discriminatory practices would face financial penalties…

Assuming that Congressman Stark sincerely desires to help foster children find good homes, let’s hope that he will come to see that cutting Christian adoption and foster care organizations from government partnerships is decidedly not the best path for achieving this goal.