CWLA joined a number of groups including American Unity Fund, Family Equality Council, FosterClub, Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, National Association of Social Workers, PFLAG National and Voice for Adoption to sponsor a Senate and a House briefing, How Discrimination in Foster Care Harms Foster Youth.

The two briefing included remarks by Ernesto Olivares, San Antonio, TX, FosterClub, Dr. Philip McAdoo, Avondale Estates, GA, foster and adoptive parent, Meghan Wojtal, Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia, Dr. Angelo McClain, National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign and Julie Kruse, Family Equality Council.

The briefings were hosted in an effort to promote the “Every Child Deserves a Family Act” House and Senate legislation sponsored by Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) respectively that would prohibit providing federal child welfare funds to agencies that discriminate in the recruitment and placement of children in foster care and adoption.

Mr. Olivares described his experiences being gay and in foster care and the discrimination and emotional harm he suffered as a young person. Dr McAdoo, who was on the panel with his son, described his experience as a foster and adoptive parent and the challenges he and his partner faced in the process of adopting his then-6 year old son (now 13) from foster care. Meghan Wojtal discussed her agency’s belief in diversity and opposition to discrimination in placement and recruitment as they provide services in Philadelphia. Dr McClain talked both about the NASW practices in regard to placement as well as his previous experience as head of the Massachusetts state department that oversees child welfare, Sarah Warbelow provided an update on recent state actions that allows agencies to discriminate and avoid placements when the foster or adoptive parent(s) are gay or the young person in care identifies as LGBTQ. Finally Julie Kruse moderated the session and discussed the Lewis-Gillebrand legislation.

The briefing came against a backdrop of a recent successful campaign to stop an amendment that had been attached to the House committee-passed appropriations for Labor-HHS. The amendment in question was offered by Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) was similar to language and legislation sponsored by Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Congressman Mike Kelly (R-PA). The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (H.R. 1881). The amendment required HHS to penalize state child welfare agencies by 15 percent of either the Title IV-B and/or IV-E funds if the state is found in violation of the “provider inclusion” provisions.

In late July, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) released a Senate “Dear Colleague” letter that was signed by 40 senators with the letter making clear that members opposed the House amendment. The Wyden letter said in part:

It is never acceptable to use federal funds to discriminate based on religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, family structure, or marital status, but the timing of the House language is particularly egregious given the spike in foster care caseloads across the country brought on by the opioid epidemic. Children across the country are sleeping in hotels, assessment centers, and temporary shelters due to the lack of licensed foster parents. Allowing child welfare agencies to close the door to willingly and fully qualified foster and adoptive parents due to a difference in religious belief opens the door to taxpayer-funded discrimination and deprives vulnerable children of safe and loving homes.””

A letter of opposition was also issued by CWLA can be read here.