Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today introduced legislation the Every Child Deserves a Family Act to open more homes to children by ending discrimination against adoptive and foster parents based on sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status. This legislation 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. Nationwide, there are an estimated 427,000 children in the U.S. foster care system, In 2015, 20,000 children “aged out” before finding a permanent home. Though as many as two million LGBT people nationally would adopt if able, most states lack non- discrimination policies and remain silent on how prospective LGBT foster and adoptive parents are being treated.
“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 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 The Every Child Deserves a Family Act would remove outdated discriminatory barriers, and let as many of our nation’s foster children as possible have a safe and permanent home.”
“Our country is experiencing a nationwide spike in foster care, with more and more children entering the system through no fault of their own. Congress simply must do more to help recruit and retain more families that can step up and fill this critical role for our most vulnerable children,” said Senator Wyden. “I am proud to join my colleagues in working to end discriminatory practices that prevent families from taking in children in need of a safe and loving home.”
“Foster children and adoptive parents across the country deserve every opportunity to be united in a loving home, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. We cannot afford to allow antiquated and discriminatory policies to get in the way of any child’s future. I am proud to cosponsor the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which would ban these shameful policies and help more foster children find caring parents in safe and permanent homes,” said Senator Blumenthal.
“It is my pleasure to join my colleagues to re-introduce this necessary legislation. This bill highlights why discrimination in any form is unreasonable in a civilized society,” said U.S. Rep. John Lewis. “You do the math. Our society has the chance to eradicate the foster care adoption problem entirely, if this bill is passed and enforced. It mandates that agencies put nothing before the happiness and well-being of our children and use every measure to place them with willing, capable adoptive families, regardless of their make-up. Every healthy family has an equal opportunity to give a child a home. The persistence of discriminatory policy robs us of that opportunity.”
“I’m proud to once again join Congressman John Lewis and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in introducing the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. Every foster child deserves the opportunity to enjoy and experience a loving home and this legislation will help parents who are ready and willing to open their hearts and homes to these children. Currently, we have too many families and individuals eager to provide a home for our foster children and are denied these opportunities based off of discrimination and preconceptions. Our bill places measures to prevent further prejudices against applicant’s marital status, gender identity, and sexual orientation resulting in a minimized waiting time for both foster children and parents. It is our hope that with this legislation, we will be able to unite these foster children with warm and loving parents and place to call home,” said. U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
“Despite a clear shortage of foster and adoptive homes, discriminatory barriers continue to prevent children from finding permanency in a loving, forever home. Passage of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act would ensure LGBTQ youth in the foster care system are not exposed to discrimination, and would open more homes for kids in care by tapping into a historically under-utilized community of willing, loving, potential foster and adoptive parents. Family Equality Council thanks Senator Gillibrand, Congressman Lewis, and Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen for their leadership on this important issue,” said Rev. Stan J. Sloan, Family Equality Council CEO.
However, states like Arizona allow foster and adoptive agencies to give preference to a married man and woman when considering a child’s placement. Additionally, states like Virginia, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, and Alabama have all implemented “conscience clause” laws that permit private adoptive and foster agencies to discriminate against children and potential parents based on moral or religious objections.
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 Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Al Franken (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Bernard Sanders (I-VT).
Increasing adoption rates as well as establishing permanency and decreasing risk factors for youth in foster care could yield an annual cost savings of between 3 and 6 billion. 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.
The companion legislation was introduced last month in the House of Representatives by Civil Rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).