National Adoption Month

As National Adoption Month draws to a close, it has struck me that, in this country, one of the few things everyone agrees on is that adoption is a wonderful thing; it gives a child a family, a sense of permanence –and the feeling that he or she is loved – that nothing else can. 

But the need for more adoptions is clear.   According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, there are approximately 400,000 children in this country who are in foster care, 100,000 of whom are waiting to be adopted, including over 5,000 children here in my state of Michigan.  At least 13% of Michigan’s waiting children have been waiting for five or more years for a forever family.   

LGBT couples, much more frequently than straight couples, have stepped in to provide loving homes for waiting children, including those considered “unadoptable”, which is one of the many reasons I am proud to be part of the LGBT community.

Unfortunately, we still have many hurdles in front of us as we strive to find loving forever homes for children awaiting adoption in our foster care system.  There are many people who still cling to their biases against our families.  I was given a stark reminder of that this week.

On Tuesday, the chairman of Michigan’s House Committee on Families, Children and Seniors held hearings on proposed legislation that would allow adoption organizations to refuse to place children with a prospective family if doing so would violate their “religious or moral convictions”, and would prohibit any State scrutiny of the agency’s policies, no matter how extreme and discriminatory.  In other words, this legislation is about protecting discrimination by adoption agencies against families (primarily LGBT families) who want to adopt, regardless of whether placement of a child with them would be in the child’s best interests.   

More than 30 years of rigorous social science research shows that children raised by LGBT parents are just as happy, healthy and well-adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents.  Indeed, every major authority on child health and welfare has determined that sexual orientation has nothing to do with the ability to be a good parent. Very little data exists on gender identity and parenting, yet there is NO evidence that being transgender produces different outcomes.

So, I attended the hearing – representing Family Equality Council – along with our state and national partners (Equality Michigan and the ACLU) to register our strong opposition to the bill.  We had also sent out an Action Alert to our families in Michigan and they responded with dozens of letters to their representatives voicing their opposition to this bill. 

Our message is clear:  people are entitled to their opinions and beliefs, but when a child is waiting for a home, we should all be able to agree that what matters is the child’s best interests.   Personal bias or bigotry cannot be allowed to interfere with the adoption process.  It simply should not matter whether a family conforms to the personal religious or moral views of the people who run placement agencies.     What matters is the love and commitment the family can provide a needy child.

While the Committee postponed its vote on the bill, that does not mean we prevailed.  We will be watching, and we will be ready to raise our voices again to stop this awful legislation from moving forward.

This is where you – all of our families, everywhere – can help.  Michigan is not the only state where this type of legislation has been proposed.  Be vigilant.  Pay attention to what your state and local governments are doing.  If you notice legislation being introduced or “rules” being followed that affect our families, even if they don’t affect yours directly, please drop me a line and let me know about it.  I might not be able to be everywhere, but with your help we can stop this type of anti-family legislation in its tracks.

Every child deserves a family