Currently, 10 states have religious exemption laws permitting adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ+) youth in care and prospective parents. This year in particular, we have seen several attempts to allow anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination under the guise of religious freedom. In May, NACAC spoke up against bills in Kansas and Oklahoma that would allow agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals. In July, we joined hundreds of organizations in calling upon Congress to reject an amendment that would permit child welfare service providers to deny services to families based on their religious beliefs and cut funding to states with nondiscriminatory laws and policies. And, in October, we supported LGBTQ+ foster and adoptive parents in an amicus brief for Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a court case about a city-contracted agency turning away qualified foster parents on the basis of sexual orientation.
In each instance, our advocacy efforts—and the efforts of others—were bolstered by research and data collection. With this in mind, the Center for American Progress worked with NACAC and Voice for Adoption to create a report examining the harmful impact of these discriminatory religious refusal laws in limiting the pool of qualified prospective foster and adoptive families.
Welcoming All Families explores the current state of the anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in the child welfare system and offers advocates new data on the impact of religious refusal bills, with a specific analysis of two states, Michigan and Texas, that have religious refusal laws. The report explores current legal protections for prospective LGBTQ+ foster and adoptive parents, court battles on this issue, and the state of the child welfare system. Finally, it presents an analysis of the policies and practices of child placement agencies in Texas and Michigan.
In addition to finding that discrimination against LGBTQ+ prospective parents not only violates their rights, but negatively impacts a strained child welfare system, the report presents a deeper look at the experiences of LGBTQ+ prospective parents seeking to foster or adopt in states with religious refusal laws. In particular, the report’s analysis of agency websites finds only 10 percent of Texas agencies and 27 percent of Michigan agencies are clearly welcoming of LGBTQ+ applicants.
The report can strengthen efforts to combat discrimination in child welfare through religious refusal laws.