The undersigned organizations call on the Congress to immediately reject a recent amendment that was included in the House Appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. Sponsored by Congressman Robert Aderholt, the amendment is described as an attempt to promote religious freedom. It is based on legislation that has been offered in both houses of Congress. At its core, the amendment would punish states that are seeking to prevent discrimination against children and families.
Child welfare policy must always be driven by what is in the best interest of children, which means encouraging culturally competent policies that reflect our society’s diversity and supporting children, youth, and families who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questions (LGBTQ+), as well as prospective parents who are single, unmarried couples, and children or families of varied religious or non-religious belief systems. The Aderholt amendment’s proponents argue that it favors religious freedom but instead it undercuts a child’s best interest, resulting in tragedy both for religious providers who are essential to the human service community and, more importantly, for the children and families falling victim to this political war.
Across the country, there is a shortage of homes available to children in need of a permanent, loving family. By rewarding states that discriminate—and punishing those that seek to prevent discrimination—we will reduce the potential number of foster and adoptive families even more, as LGBTQ+ parents or parents of different faith will be turned away from agencies. Children who are LGBTQ+ or of a different faith can be refused by these agencies, and single parents seeking to care for children in need could be denied family preservation services or opportunities to be foster or adoptive parents. But the impact goes beyond these children and families. In states that seek to prevent discrimination, the amendment would cut a significant portion of the state’s child welfare funds, giving agencies fewer resources to reunify families, provide support services and recruit foster and adoptive families.
Imagine children placed in group homes instead of finding comfort in the arms of their relatives, who happen to be LGBTQ+ or unmarried. Imagine youth in foster homes across the country who are beginning find the love and care needed to heal from past trauma, being removed from their new homes and re-traumatized because they have come out as LGBTQ+. Imagine children who spend years in foster care, eventually aging out of the system, because prospective foster and adoptive parents are of a different faith than an agency’s leaders.
These horror stories will become a reality if this amendment remains in place. Under the Aderholt Amendment, all 600,000 children in foster care, 118,000 children waiting to be adopted, 57,000 children adopted from foster care, and 670,000 children substantiated as victims of child maltreatment each year will be negatively affected. In trying to harm an imagined enemy, this political war has hit some of the most vulnerable residents of our society—children in need of permanent, loving families.
The federal government has a responsibility to ensure that children in need have a good outcome, either by overcoming challenges with their birth family and reuniting with them after time spent in foster care or finding a forever home with adoptive parents or relatives. In each and every case, the families that help these children grow and heal will be made up of unique, diverse individuals of different faiths, marital statuses, and orientations—reflecting the varied fabric of our society.
We call on the Congress to value all of our children, youth, and families by rejecting this legislation and amendment.