On Wednesday, June 5, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) and Congresswoman Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR) introduced the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (ECDF). The legislation prohibits discrimination against children, youth, families, and individuals on the basis of religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), and marital status in the administration and provision of child welfare services receiving Federal funds. It also improves safety, well-being, and permanency for LGBTQ children and youth in child welfare.
Rep. Lewis is the primary sponsor of the bill and at the briefing for the Family Equality and FosterClub during Foster Care Awareness Month he stated:
“Too many children dream of a stable, loving family. Many adults want to open their homes and their hearts, but they also are facing more and more barriers, because some officials can say they practice the wrong religion, love the wrong person, or are not married. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act puts the happiness and well-being of our children front and center, engaging every possible match between solid families and children searching for a home. We must each do our part to ensure that every young person and capable, aspiring parents are able to enjoy the dream of a loving, stable family together.”
In the United States, there are more than 440,000 children in the child welfare system. Of these foster youth, over 100,000 children eagerly await a permanent family. Unfortunately, LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system. An estimated 30 percent of foster youth identify as LGBTQ, and they are more likely to experience poor treatment, discrimination, or violence while in care.
Eliminating discrimination in child welfare systems based on sex, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status would increase the number and diversity of foster and adoptive homes able to meet the individual needs of children and youth who need to be paired with capable families who want to adopt them.
“The foster care system faces an overpopulation and many of these children reach 18 years of age and never get assigned to a home and end up in the streets without a safe roof” said Congresswoman Gonzalez Colon. “We are failing a full generation in the early stages of their lives, since we are unable to provide them with the necessary tools that will set the base for their future actions or decisions by denying them the love of a family by mere prejudices and lack of understanding of that love that has no barriers imposed by society. Eliminating interpretations of the law that can lead to discrimination is the right thing to do; taking responsibility as government to provide a roof and a home for our children is the right thing to do.”
To read the bill text, click here. Stay tuned for the Senate version of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act.