Please 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) introduced by Congressman Pete Stark (D-CA) on March 3rd, 2011. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has announced her intention to introduce the bill in the Senate soon.
What is the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R. 1681)
The legislation addresses the critical shortage of stable, safe and loving homes currently available to children in our foster care system. The legislation would set a federal baseline that puts an end to prejudiced restrictions that have denied an untold number of children the homes that they desperately need.
The Every Child Deserves a Family Act would ban discrimination in adoption or foster care placement based on the sexual orientation, marital status or gender identity of the potential parent, or the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child.
There are approximately 500,000 children in our foster care system right now. Over 125,000 of those are waiting to be adopted, but there are just not enough qualified adoptive and foster parents. That leads to nearly 25,000 youth "aging out" of care each year with no permanent family. These young people are more likely than nearly any other group to become homeless or incarcerated, or to suffer with mental illness or substance abuse.
There is an acute shortage of adoptive and foster parents. Yet, despite this fact and the documented terrible consequences of long stays in the child welfare system, some states have enacted discriminatory bans prohibiting children from being placed with qualified parents due solely to the parent's marital status or sexual orientation. A number of additional states are actively considering similar discriminatory restrictions. Most recently, Arizona enacted a law to restrict the ability of unmarried and gay and lesbian individuals to adopt. Only six states affirmatively allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt jointly.
This is unfair to good people who want to open their homes to youth, unimaginable for kids who just want a family to love them, and unsafe for children for whom we in this body are responsible. If states will not do the right thing, the Federal government should.
Congress invests over $7 billion in the child welfare system each year. We should not accept policies that use Federal funds to enact discriminatory barriers to adoption and close the door to thousands of potential homes. Studies suggest that upwards of 2 million gay and lesbian individuals are interested in adopting or fostering a child. There are already approximately 1 million lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) parents raising about 2 million children in the U.S. Leading child welfare, public health, medical and legal organizations agree that opening up the homes of all qualified prospective parents can help support the unique needs of foster youth. Groups including the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychological Association, and the American Bar Association, all support the ability of qualified unmarried and LGBT couples to foster and adopt. More than 30 years of research indicates optimal development for children is based on the stable attachments to committed and nurturing parents, not on the marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity of the parents. This research consistently demonstrates that children raised by same-sex parents exhibit the same level of emotional, cognitive, social and sexual development outcomes as children raised by straight 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 parent 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. This is the same approach that has put an end to race discrimination in adoption and foster care placements.
Children in our foster care system are some of our most precious – and vulnerable – youth. They depend on us to do all we can to find them supportive and loving families, and it is our obligation to act in their best interests when doing so. To fail in our task of opening every possible door to stable, permanent and loving homes is a grave disservice to these children and to our country. We cannot allow divisive politics and the culture war to further harm these children by shrinking the number of prospective adoptive and foster parents. I hope that all of my colleagues will join me in saying yes to children and no to bigotry by cosponsoring the "Every Child Deserves a Family Act." (Source: Congressman Pete Stark's Introduction for H.R. 1681).
What can you do to help pass Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R. 1681)
Don't let the media ignore this act! Please post this petition and Pete Stark's press release to your Facebook, Twitter, Blog, and the like - tell your friends, family, and co-workers so that they can do the same thing. A Facebook page has also been created for the Act: http://www.facebook.com/EveryChildDeservesaFamily. Furthermore, Pete Stark's press release for the reintroduction of Every Child Deserves a Family Act may be found on his website here.
Please write or call your U.S. Representatives, Senators, and President Obama to declare your support for Every Child Deserves a Family Act, and ask that they co-sponsor the Act. You can find your representive here.