Last Thursday, when the House Appropriations Committee acted on their Labor-HHS-Education bill, Committee Republicans included an amendment that could promote discrimination in the placement and recruitment of children and parents based on gender and sexual preference. The amendment was offered by Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and it is 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) allows HHS to penalize state child welfare agencies by 15 percent of either the Title IV-B or IV-E funds if the state is found in violation in regard to placements in foster care and adoption—and the provision of services for child welfare that include prevention and child protection.

Under the Kelly-Enzi bills, HHS “shall not discriminate or take an adverse action against a child welfare service provider on the basis that the provider has declined or will decline to provide, facilitate, or refer for a child welfare service that conflicts with, or under circumstances that conflict with, the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.” That could be interpreted to include anyone who takes an action that they claim is based on their beliefs. It is not limited to claims of religious practice or doctrine, and supersedes decisions and services based on the best interests of a child who is waiting to be adopted or in foster care.

To make matters worse, the bill defines HHS “adverse action” to include denying a child welfare service provider’s application for funding, refusing to renew, canceling, declining to contract with or declining to issue a license to a provider, and refusing to renew or cancel a license.

The Child Welfare League of America will actively oppose the amendment.

CWLA has joined in coalition with a number of groups over the past several years in opposing these bills, which many critics, including CWLA, feel are not about religious freedom or protection but about promoting discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual identity. In an ironic twist, the way this legislation is constructed would also allow for religious discrimination.

Faith-based organizations have always played a key provider role, not just in child welfare but also in child care, long-term care, and nursing home care—and they have been on the front lines in helping refugee families. In recent years, however, some conservative think tanks in Washington and around the country have sought to create a wedge within these communities by trying to link personal prejudices to what they deem to be religious or moral freedoms.

In another ironic twist, these same think tanks and organizations have been at the forefront of efforts to cut funding to these very same human services.

In recent decades, CWLA has advanced policy statements and actions on LGBTQ issues based on more than nearly four decades of social science research and nearly 100 years of service to millions of families, CWLA believes that families with LGBTQ members deserve the same levels of support afforded other families. Any attempt to preclude or prevent gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender individuals or couples from parenting, based solely on their sexual orientation, is not in the best interest of children. Further, adults who ignore the best interests of children based on personal prejudice make the lives of children and youth who identify as LGBTQ that much more difficult when they are in foster care, seeking adoption, or transitioning to adulthood. For more information, you can read the:
CWLA Position Statement
Joint Statement CWLA-Voice for Adoption-Donaldson Institute-NACAC
CWLA Letter on Florida Legislation
CWLA Amicus Brief on Banning of Gay Adoptions

The recent actions by some members of Congress fly in the face of some of their public roles. Congressman Aderholt just recently was elevated to a position as co-chair for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption.

A recent Children’s Monitor reported on a new study by the Human Rights Campaign on LGBTQ youth, which notes that the mental health disparities between LGBTQ youth and non-LGBTQ youth continue at an alarming rate.

Today’s LGBTQ youth face a variety of stressors — harassment, family and peer rejection, bullying from their peers, isolation and a lack of a sense of belonging — that have a major impact on their overall well-being. Studies have shown that, compared to their non-LGBTQ peers, LGBTQ youth report much higher rates of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug use, and lower self-esteem. Of note:

• 67% of LGBTQ youth hear their families make negative comments about LGBTQ people
• 25% of LGBTQ youth have families who show support for them by getting involved in the larger LGBTQ and ally community
• 24% of LGBTQ youth can “definitely” be themselves as an LGBTQ person at home
• 78% of youth not out to their parents as LGBTQ hear their families make negative comments about LGBTQ people

LGBTQ youth represent a disproportionate share of youth in the foster care system. Unfortunately, some members of Congress who welcome these young people into their offices and to testify before House and Senate committees may be throwing them overboard for a quick election-year pitch.

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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