A new report released in cooperation with the Center for American Progress, the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) and Voice for Adoption has found that increasing discrimination against would-be LGBT adoptive parents will likely exacerbate the ongoing crisis for children in the foster care system and those looking for a forever family.
The report stems from recent moves by legislatures around the country to, in the name of religious freedom, allow state-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against those who do not share their religious beliefs. In many cases, these restrictions are targeted specifically to gay and lesbian hopeful adoptive parents.
In the recently released report, adoption and LGBT rights experts explore the current legal landscape or protections and discrimination for LGBT foster and adoptive parents; the impacts of religious exemptions on the nation’s child welfare systems; and possible recommendations for how to best eliminate discrimination against LGBT foster and adoptive parents.
You can read the full report here. We’ve also listed some of the most important findings below:
1. As of October, 10 states allow child-placing agencies to turn away prospective parents for religious reasons.
With more than 440,000 children in foster care nationwide — and about 20,000 aging out of the system each year without a permanent family — making it harder for families to foster or adopt children from the state foster care systems stresses an already stressed system. Some of these states with faith-based adoption legislation are already facing intense scrutiny and difficulties in safely providing homes for children, as it is.
In addition, in 42 states, LGBT foster and adoptive parents are not protected by laws or policies explicitly prohibiting discrimination in the foster care system.
2. LGBT parents are much more likely to foster or adopt children.
According to the report, same-sex couples raising children are seven times more likely to be raising a foster child and seven times more likely to be raising an adopted child than opposite-sex couples are. They’re also more likely to adopt older children and children with special needs. Therefore, LGBT foster and adoptive parents have a disproportionately positive effect on the foster care system than heterosexual parents.
3. Discrimination against LGBT foster and adoptive parents is unpopular.
In the last decade, a majority of Americans have continually supported the legal right of LGBT couples to adopt. Today, more than two-thirds of Americans oppose allowing federally funded child-placing agencies to refuse placements with LGBT individuals and couples, and more than half of Americans oppose these refusals regardless of whether the agency is federally funded.
4. Geography can play a huge role in a hopeful LGBT parent’s ability to adopt.
One study in the report looks at three of the most populous cities in Texas. Within their greater metropolitan areas, no agencies existed that explicitly affirmed LGBT individuals’ rights to adopt with that agency. In turn, it would be much less likely for LGBT parents in those areas to pursue the option of adoption, when facing discriminatory legislation.
5. The number of children in state custody will only continue to rise.
From 2012 to 2017, the number of children in the foster care system increased by 11 percent. Experts expect this increase to continue, with one clear contributor being the opioid epidemic. In 2016, more than one-third of removals involved drug abuse by a parent. Some of the states with the biggest increases in children in foster care are also the states hit hardest by the epidemic.
6. Discriminating against would-be LGBT foster and adoptive parents costs taxpayers money.
When children in foster care cannot be placed in foster homes, they must be placed in group homes, instead. These placements cost seven to 10 times more than placing a child in a foster family placement. By restricting the number of LGBT parents who can foster, states reduce the number of available foster homes — spending more money to provide care for children in other ways.
In addition, when children are adopted from foster care by loving parents, the state no longer has to pay as much (or anything) to provide care for the child. The report estimates suggest that each child adopted from foster care reduces state and federal sending by almost $29,000 annually.
7. Certain recommendations can prevent the growing foster care crisis.
The report offers three ways to prevent discrimination against LGBT foster and adoptive parents, who are such an integral part of the foster care system. These suggestions are:
- Enacting federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ prospective parents
- Repealing religious exemptions for child-placing agencies
- Encouraging agencies who welcome all families to make their policies explicit on their web and marketing materials
- Increasing recruitment of and outreach to all prospective foster and adoptive parents, not just LGBT parents
The report concludes: “LGBTQ parents cannot solve the child welfare crisis on their own, but they can certainly help. The nation owes it to the young people in care to give them every chance possible at finding a permanent family.”
Read more about LGBT adoption here.