The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus commended the recent introduction of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act Tuesday.
Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives June 5, the legislation would end anti-LGBTQ discrimination in foster care and adoption. It would prohibit federally-funded child welfare service providers from discriminating against children, families and individuals based on religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status. It would also ban conversion therapy in federally-funded child welfare programs.
“Many adults want to open their homes and their hearts, but they also are facing more and more barriers, because some officials can say they practice the wrong religion, love the wrong person, or are not married,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who introduced the bill. “The Every Child Deserves a Family Act puts the happiness and well-being of our children front and center, engaging every possible match between solid families and children searching for a home.”
At least 22 percent of foster youth identify as LGBTQ but report experiencing double the rate of mistreatment — including discrimination, violence and harassment — in the system, the act states.
The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, led by the eight out members of Congress, was founded in 2008.
“No parent should ever be denied the opportunity to build a family because of who they love or how they identify, and no child should ever be mistreated because of their identity,” said caucus co-chair Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN), who has four sons with her wife. ”All that should matter is that children are placed in a safe, loving home,”
Caucus co-chair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), first and only out member of Congress from New York and a father of three, also supports the bill.
“It’s ridiculous that qualified, loving parents are being turned away just because of who they love,” he said. “There are so many kids in need of a good home and parents who are ready, willing and able to give that to them.”
LGBTQ foster youth are placed in a higher number of homes due to bias and have an increased likelihood of living in group housing, the act states. Approximately 60 percent of LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness previously lived in the foster system, but many reported feeling safer on the streets.
Same-sex couples are also seven times more likely to foster or adopt, but many states, including Virginia, Alabama and Texas, permit child-placing agencies to turn away same-sex couples and LGBTQ individuals.
In March 2018, Philadelphia city officials stopped referring foster-care children to religious foster-care agency Catholic Social Services when the agency wouldn’t place children with same-sex couples. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision in April.
Nonprofit Philadelphia Family Pride advocates for LGBTQ equality within the child welfare system. The group concluded a speaker series June 20 aimed at elevating voices of LGBTQ youth in foster care.
Of the 443,000 foster youth in the United States, 16,891 reside in Pennsylvania, said Philadelphia Family Pride Executive Director Stephanie Haynes.
“We’ve seen through our work recruiting LGBTQ adults to become foster parents and the LGBTQ youth who have been placed in their homes that there is a big impact on individual lives when there are more homes available and when those homes are affirming ones,” Haynes told PGN.
“If passed, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act would promote the best interests of children by increasing the number of foster and adoptive homes available to all foster children and improving services to LGBTQ and religious minority foster children across the country,” she added.