Yet, the state House passed three bills in March that would allow child welfare providers to turn away qualified and interested foster and adoptive parents based on the provider’s personal religious or moral beliefs.
Rather than focusing on the needs of foster youth, these harmful adoption restrictions put the preferences of service providers above the best interests of our most vulnerable kids. I speak from experience. Having lived in temporary foster care, I know we need every willing, loving adult available to care for us when our own parents cannot.
Placement decisions should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis that assess interested parents on the safety of their home, the strengths of the family and the best interests of each individual child. But these bills allow providers to turn away gay and lesbian foster parents. The belief that LGBT parents are unfit has no factual evidence. It is only personal, biased beliefs that keep this myth afloat.
Although the sponsors of these restrictive adoption bills claim their intent is not to discriminate against any particular group, the effect of these bills is indisputable. I can’t imagine the agony I would feel knowing that someone was willing to step forward and provide me a family, but the agency working on my behalf turned away the prospective parents based on their personal beliefs — beliefs that I do not share. As if being without a family isn’t agony enough.
I eventually returned home to my family from foster care. But for all of the kids for whom reunification is not an option, adoption restriction bills and other discriminatory policies only increase a child’s waiting time in foster care, and also decrease their chances of ever finding a permanent family.
Studies show that LGBT couples are four times more likely to adopt and six times more likely to foster children. Discriminatory bills like the ones being considered in Michigan are harmful to youth in care. As of 2013, there were 3,337 foster youth waiting for families. We need to open more doors to qualified parents, not close them.
These bills deny youth in foster care permanency simply because of a provider’s personal moral or religious beliefs. Service providers should never put their own personal beliefs above the best interests of the children they’ve committed to serve.
Tamya McGee, a graduating senior at Michigan State University, spent two years in foster care. She spent the last quarter interning in Washington, D.C., with Voice for Adoption, a national child welfare advocacy organization.