February 27, 2020
Dear Chair Maloney, Chair Raskin, Ranking Member Jordan, and Ranking Member Roy:
Thank you for the opportunity to submit my testimony to the Committee for the hearing on The Administration’s Religious Liberty Assault on LGBT Rights. I appreciate the opportunity to share my story, and to share why Congress must act to end discrimination in foster care and adoption, by passing Congressman John Lewis’ bipartisan Every Child Deserves a Family Act, HR 3114. I am submitting my testimony via Family Equality, an organization representing LGBTQ families and LGBTQ people wishing to form families.
My husband and I were the second gay couple to adopt through the foster care program in the State of Utah, welcoming our children into our home as foster parents in May 2015 and completing the adoption process in November 2015. Our experience with the Utah Foster Care Foundation and the Utah Department of Child and Family Services exceeded our expectations. We were encouraged throughout the process and felt welcomed and respected. I am writing today to support the positive impact that adding LBGTQ families into the pool can have for the children.
Simply put, love and security are the foundation for healthy outcomes for the children. These attributes are not “owned” solely by religious or heterosexual individuals. The best interests of the children should always be forefront and I believe that our story of success offers an example of the power of family, no matter the gender makeup or religiosity.
After reviewing the kids’ files, who were 4 and 2 years old at the time, we got a sense of physical abuse and a lot of neglect up to this point. The children had been homeless with their birth-mom for a period, couch-surfing and living in transitional housing.
Today, our kids are 8 & 6 and are as happy and stable as any of their peers. Our daughter has pivoted from an aggressive personality to one of the most caring and empathetic kids around. Our son, who was feared to have developmental issues has just been recommended for an advanced-learning magnet school. He is in kindergarten and reading at a second-grade level. He is funny, bright and loving.
In sum, if you remove couples like us from the potential pool of families, you are lowering the chances of positive outcomes for the children. Discrimination of this kind certainly hurts us by denying our rights, but more importantly, it harms the children. The positive story of our family is just one of many. The most important consideration should be improving the chances of success for all of the children.
This is a social issue of great magnitude. In 2017, nearly 20,000 young people “aged out” of foster care across the country – placing them at higher risk of involvement with the criminal justice system, homelessness, unemployment, and being trafficked. Adoption and parenting should focus on creating safe, stable, loving forever homes for kids. All child welfare decisions should be made in the best interests of the child, not based on the religious beliefs of child services agencies or workers.
LGBTQ people are more likely to adopt older children and children with disabilities – children who have the most difficulty finding forever homes. “License to discriminate” laws allow child services agencies to refuse to place LGBTQ youth – who are overrepresented in the foster care system – with affirming and accepting parents. These laws also mean that a worker could place an LGBTQ youth with a family that intends to place them in harmful conversion therapy. 19% of foster youth identify as LGBTQ and report twice the rate of poor treatment while in care, as well as greater rates of placement in group homes, multiple placements, hospitalization for emotional reasons, involvement in the criminal justice system, and homelessness.
Children of color are overrepresented in the foster care system, constituting over half of children in care. States are required to recruit a pool of foster and adoptive parents that mirrors the population of kids in care. More than a third of same-sex couples raising children are people of color. Marginalized youth in the child welfare system, including those who are LGBTQ, Indian or Alaska Native, and youth of color, deserve culturally competent, safe, and supportive care.