Politics have been an unsettling topic recently. It seems a day doesn’t go by where I don’t cringe in rage to keep myself from screaming at my desk as another ‘Breaking News’ banner flashes across a news post on my Facebook feed. While it’s not an excuse, usually I don’t write about these topics. To be perfectly honest, after dealing with the cluster fuck of a bureaucracy that is the best our nation can do to help the children, the disabled, and the elderly, I am emotionally exhausted. I want to spend my free time writing about fun topics like dating, sex, and ethical non-monogamy. However, this week GOP Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama introduced an Amendment to Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Bill, 2019 which would allow any child welfare service provider to refuse to “provide a service that conflicts with its sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions,” and any state or locality that does not comply gets a 15% cut to child welfare funding. This amendment impacts both the worlds I try desperately to keep separate because that’s what social workers do to survive. So here I am spending my Saturday about to explain all the negative ramifications of this amendment with facts and figures even though the people supporting have long since decided facts are fake news.
There are so many problems with this amendment. Foster care and adoption agencies could discriminate against anyone based on their individual religious beliefs. Most religious agencies in the United States are of the Christian persuasion so they could discriminate against anyone of another religious background, atheists, the LGBTQ community, single parents, and of course, individuals openly practicing ethical non-monogamy. Child welfare employees are some of the most overworked, underpaid workers in the country. Cutting their budget by 15% would be a devastating blow. States would have no choice but to comply.
Contributions of LGBTQ Parents to Children in Foster Care
For the purposes of this blog post, I am going to focus specifically on the ramifications of denying LGBTQ adoption and foster care. This is primarily because I found all sorts of data to support my soapbox, which is what I live for.
On September 30, 2016, there were 437, 465 children in the foster care system in the United States. Seventy-seven percent were in foster homes. The other 23% were in pre-adoptive homes, group homes, institutions, back home for a trial visit, or runaways (The AFCARS Report).
LGBTQ couples are six times more likely than different-sex parents to raise foster children according to a study conducted by Gary Gates in 2013. This number is based on the percentage of same-sex couples raising foster children versus heterosexual so the total number of same-sex couples with foster children in 2013 was around 3,400. This may not seem like a very big number in the grand scheme of things. However, the total number of children in foster care has gone up by around 10% since 2012, so every potential resource is needed to help those children.
Contributions of LGBTQ Adoption
In 2016, there were 117,794 waiting to be adopted, which means their parents’ rights had been terminated (The AFCARS Report). LGBTQ adoption is significant because same-sex parents are four times more likely to adopt. Remember this is based on percentages; however, in 2013 the total number came to around more than 22,000 children being raised by same-sex parents. This is not an insignificant number.
Not all of those children were adopted from the foster care system. However, this amendment encompasses any “organizations, corporations, groups, entities, or individuals that provide or seek to provide… the provision of, child welfare services. The provider need not be engaged exclusively in child welfare services to be considered a child welfare service provider.”
Not to belittle the efforts of foster care parents, but adoption makes an astronomical impact on children in the system. Children who age out of the foster care system are more likely to be involved in the legal system and have mental health problems and significantly less likely to graduate from high school.
However, Rep. Robert Aderholt has somehow spun this decision as a way to increase their chances because more agencies will open if they have the opportunity to discriminate.
Outcomes of Children Raised by LGBTQ Parents
According to a recent report by the Chronicle of Social Change, half the states have experienced a shortage of foster care beds between 2012 and 2017. If you recall, the number of children in foster care increased by 10% during that time. Why would you want to deny anyone the opportunity to care for one of these children in the short term or provide them with a real home?
The American Sociological Association reported that after examining a compilation of studies that looked at various outcomes of children raised by same-sex versus heterosexual, they found no difference in “academic performance, cognitive development, social development, psychological health, early sexual activity, and substance abuse.”
Rep. Robert Aderholt reports that there has been a 30% increase in service providers after the State of Alabama allowed them to discriminate against parents. I know another way to ensure that increase. Get over your religious bigotry and don’t deny people who want to love children who have no one. Instead, anti-discrimination laws have allowed agencies to hold their services hostage. Fortunately, there are LGBTQ friendly adoption agencies that will continue to provide services to everyone.
Numbers are easy to skim over. It’s easy to forget that behind each and every one of those numbers is a child with a heartbreaking story. I could only work for child welfare for 18 months, during which I learned the stories of 25 children in painstaking detail. I try not to think about them too much because I know statistically the chances that their lives are better now are slim. However, amidst the abuse and trauma, one happy ending stands out. During my 18 months working for child welfare, I went to one adoption hearing. My team lead made it a point to tell me she had no intention of informing the judge that the man adopting the little toddler had a male partner he lived with and was spending his life with. This happened 10 years ago. There has been so much progress for LGBTQ communities during the past decade. Amendments like this threaten that progress and demonstrate the fight for equality is far from over. We must continue to show up at the polls and protest because apparently bigotry is alive and well in the land of the free.