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Petitioning U.S. House of Representatives and 2 others

Support the Every Child Deserves a Family Act

Urge the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and President Obama to pass the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R.1681).

What is the Every Child Deserves a Family Act?

The Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R.1681), sponsored by U.S. Representative Pete Stark (D-CA 13), prohibits states from discriminating in the placement of foster and adoptive children on the basis of sexual orientation and allows federal funding to be cut off if such discriminatory practices are in place.

The Problem

In the United States child welfare system, there is a shortage of qualified individuals willing to adopt or foster a child. As a result, thousands of foster children lack a permanent and safe home.

Of the estimated 500,000 children in the United States foster care system, over 129,000 cannot return to their original families and are legally free for adoption. 51,000 children were adopted in 2007, while 25,000 youth `aged out' of the foster care system.

Research has shown that youth who `age out' of the foster care system are at a high risk for poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and early parenthood. However, increasing adoption rates, in addition to establishing permanency and decreasing risk factors for foster youth, can yield annual national cost savings between $3,300,000,000 and $6,300,000,000.

There are approximately 1,000,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender couples throughout the United States who are raising approximately 2,000,000 children.  According to data taken from the 2000 Census, an estimated 27 percent of same-sex couples have at least 1 child under 18 years of age living in the home.

As of 2007, gay, lesbian, and bisexual parents were raising 4 percent of all adopted children and fostering for 3 percent of all foster children. According to a report from the Evan B. Donaldson Institute, it was found that an additional 2,000,000 gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals are interested in adoption.

Experts agree that in many States, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth experience discrimination, harassment, and violence in the foster care system because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Approximately 60 percent of homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth were previously in foster care. According to the Urban Justice Center, many of these young people reported that living on the streets felt `safer' than living in their group or foster home.

An Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute study found that one-third of child welfare agencies in the United States currently reject gay, lesbian, and bisexual applicants.

 The practice of prohibiting applicants from becoming foster parents or adopting children solely on the basis of sexual orientation or marital status has resulted in reducing the number of qualified adoptive and foster parents overall and denying gay, lesbian, bisexual, and unmarried relatives the opportunity to become foster parents for their own kin, including grandchildren, or to adopt their own kin, including grandchildren, from foster care.

The Solution

Discrimination against potential foster or adoptive parents based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status is not in the best interests of children in the foster care system.

In order to open more homes to foster children, child welfare agencies should work to eliminate sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status discrimination and bias in adoption and foster care recruitment, selection, and placement procedures.

According to the Urban Institute, same-sex couples raising adopted children tend to be older than, just as educated as, and have access to the same economic resources as other adoptive parents. Studies confirm that children with same-sex parents have the same advantages and same expectations for health, social and psychological adjustment, and development as children whose parents are heterosexual.

In fact, professional organizations in the fields of medicine, psychology, law, and child welfare have taken official positions in support of the ability of qualified gay, lesbian, bisexual, and unmarried couples to foster and adopt, as supported by scientific research showing sexual orientation as a nondeterminative factor in parental success.

Over 14,000 children are currently in placements with gay, lesbian, and bisexual adoptive and foster parents. If other States followed the minority of States and discriminated against qualified individuals because of their sexual orientation or marital status, foster care expenditures would increase between $87,000,000 and $130,000,000 per year in order to pay for additional institutional and group care, as well as to recruit and train new foster and adoptive parents.

Some States allow 1 member of a same-sex couple to adopt, but do not recognize both members of the couple as the child's legal parents. Recognition of joint adoption provides children with the same rights and security that children of heterosexual parents enjoy. These protections include access to both parents' health benefits; survivor's, Social Security, and child support entitlements; legal grounds for either parent to provide consent for medical care, education, and other important decisions; as well as the establishment of permanency for both parents and child.

What would the Every Child Deserves a Family Act do?

The Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R.1681), would prohibit an entity that receives federal assistance and is involved in adoption or foster care placements from discriminating against prospective adoptive or foster parents solely on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identification, or martial status, or on the basis of the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child involved.

It would also require;

-the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), in order to ensure compliance with, and ensure understanding of the legal, practice, and culture changes required by, this Act in making foster care and adoption placement decisions, to provide specified technical assistance to all entities covered by this Act.

-a General Accounting Office study and report to Congress on whether states have substantially complied with this Act in eliminating policies, practices, or statutes that deny adoption rights on the basis of these criteria.

What can you do to get the Every Child Deserves a Family Act passed?

Please write to and/or call your U.S. Representatives and Senators and President Obama tell them to pass the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R.1681). Also ask your U.S. Representatives and Senators to co-sponsor the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R.1681).



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