New York, NY – Standing with LGBT families and advocates, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that she will introduce the Every Child Deserves a Family Act this week to open more homes to children by ending discrimination against adoptive and foster parents based on sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status. Nationwide, there are an estimated 402,000 children in the U.S. foster care system, and 23,000 children will “age out” before finding a permanent home. In New York City, there were over 11,000 children in foster care last year, which cost the City over $200 million. Though as many as two million LGBT people nationally would adopt if able, many states expressly ban same-sex couples from adopting or fostering children. The legislation Gillibrand outlined would bar any entity that receives federal funds and is involved in adoption or foster care placement from discriminating against parents based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. Companion legislation in the House of Representatives is being introduced on a bipartisan basis by Civil Rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).
“With so many American children in need of a permanent home, we should not be preventing loving, caring, and responsible adults from welcoming these children into their families,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The absence of a national policy prevents thousands and thousands of children from growing up in a safe home with devoted parents. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act would remove outdated discriminatory barriers, and let as many of our nation’s foster children as possible have permanent homes and parents who love them.”
“As the national organization that connects, supports, and represents LGBTQ parents and their families in the U.S., Family Equality Council values Senator Gillibrand’s longstanding commitment to ensuring that every child in foster care has the opportunity to find a forever home,” said Gabriel Blau, Executive Director of the Family Equality Council. Her stewardship of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act showcases her dedication to ensuring that the best interests of youth in foster care is the first priority of agencies and individual providers, and to making sure that no qualified parent is turned away because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. With 23,000 youth aging out of care each year without finding permanency, passage of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act is all the more crucial, and we look forward to working with the Senator to ensure that no child is denied the chance to find his or her forever family.”
“One in five youth in foster care identify as LGBT, which is why The Center works to train more foster care agency staff and parents to provide loving, welcoming homes and culturally competent care for LGBT young people in the child welfare system,” said Glennda Testone, Executive Director of The LGBT Community Center. “Despite the overwhelming need for such programs, we do this work without any government funding. We need help, which is why it’s crucial for legislation like ECDF to pass and put pressure on states to abandon discriminatory practices in adoption and foster care placements based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
“Loving parents, a nurturing, safe environment – these are what all children need to grow and thrive,” said Ellen Kahn, Human Rights Campaign’s Director of the Children, Youth and Families Program. “HRC applauds Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s leadership in reintroducing the Every Child Deserves a Family Act which will remove discriminatory and arbitrary barriers that stand between hundreds of thousands of children in our nation’s foster care system, and the loving, qualified, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults who look forward to welcoming a child and building a family together.”
“We applaud Senator Gillibrand for working to help more children to find homes with loving families,” said Nathan Schaefer, Executive Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda. “For it’s love that makes a family—not the gender, sexual orientation, marital status, or gender identity of the parents or children. Legislation like the Every Child Deserves a Family Act is especially necessary as more LGBTQ Americans gain the freedom to marry. With nationwide access to the right to marriage likely in the near future, issues relevant to creating families come to the fore, and LGBTQ families need protection from discrimination.”
“While you most certainly can put a price tag on the cost of our countries child welfare system, you could never put a price tag on the life-opportunities the LGBT community has to offer these children,” said Joseph Vitale. Mr. Vitale and his husband, Rob Talmas, adopted their son Cooper in Ohio but because Ohio does not afford marriage equality, Cooper’s birth certificate does not recognize both of his parents.
“I believe this legislation is critical so that many more deserving families can have the amazing opportunities I have had to grow my family,” said Mary Keane. “The experience has been much more powerful than anything I could have imagined and I cannot now imagine my life without my kids and grandkids. It is also needed to help save the lives of so many youth in care who now have no hope of families and who will age out of foster care alone if there are not more families who are willing to adopt them and make them a part of their family.”
“Thanks to Senator Gillibrand and all of those legislators brave enough to stand behind the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, adoptive families will not have to bear the indignity of state-sponsored discrimination,” said Stephen Millikin. “My hope is that passage of this bill will fulfill the promise of a loving family to all children in need of a ‘forever home’ whether they are in foster care or in the adoption process.”
Only seven states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in adoption, and only five explicitly ban discrimination in foster care. Louisiana, Mississippi and Michigan prohibit same-sex couples from jointly adopting, and Nebraska, Ohio, Kentucky and Kansas restrict same-sex couples from accessing second-parent adoption. A majority of states are silent on the issue of LGBT foster care, therefore providing no protections for men and women who want to provide homes for children.
The Every Child Deserves A Family Act would provide protections to qualified potential parents by prohibiting any entity that receives federal funds and is involved in adoption or foster care placements from discriminating on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Ed Markey (D-MA).
Congress invests more than $8 billion into the child welfare system. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Every Child Deserves A Family Act would save $100 million over five years and just under $400 million over the course of 10 years.