Congressman Pete Stark (D-CA) has introduced a bill that would restrict federal funding for states with adopion or foster care laws that discriminate on the basis of marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.
"On any given day, there are approximately 500,000 children in the child
welfare system. Over 125,000 of these abused and neglected children
are waiting to be adopted. There is an acute shortage, however, of
adoptive and foster parents. The result is that many children,
particularly minority and special needs children, languish in foster
care without permanent homes. The severe developmental, emotional, and
educational costs to children raised in foster care are well
documented. The 25,000 youth who never find a permanent family and
“age out” of the system each year are more likely than nearly any other
group to become homeless, incarcerated, or suffer with mental illness
or substance abuse.
"Despite the shortage of adoptive and foster parents and the 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 to the parent’s marital status or sexual
orientation. Currently, over 65,000 adopted children and 14,000 foster
children are living with a gay or lesbian parent. Studies suggest that
upward of 2 million gay and lesbian individuals are interested in
adopting or fostering a child. Yet, statewide discriminatory bans and
the practices of individual adoption agencies have resulted in fewer
children being placed in safe and permanent homes.
"Congress invests over $8 billion in the child welfare system each year
and we should not accept policies that use Federal funds to enact
barriers to adoption and close the door to thousands of potential
homes. Multiple studies have found that adopted and foster children
raised by gay and lesbian parents fare just as well as their peers
being raised by heterosexual 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 parents can provide a safe and nurturing home. Bigotry
should play no part in this decision."
Stark's bill is called the 'Every Child Deserves a Family Act'. According to the Washington Blade, "The legislation, Stark said, also would restrict funds for states
where restrictions are put in place by agencies, individual social
workers or judges, or where restrictions are part of the common law of
the state. For states that don't comply with the law, federal officials
could withhold from the states funds provided to them for child welfare
services. The bill also calls for a Government Accountability Office
study within five years to examine how states are complying with the
new rules. The bill is modeled after the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act, a law
Stark helped shepherd through Congress in 1994 that prohibits racial
discrimination in foster care and adoption placements."
Stark's bill currently has no co-sponsors, though it does have the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "Pelosi shares the view of child welfare groups that children 'should
have the security of two fully sanctioned and legally recognized
parents, whether those parents are of the same or opposite sex.'"