Why would anyone want to shut down organizations that have a long history of successfully placing vulnerable children in loving homes?
At a recent hearing held by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Democratic members voiced support for regulations that would do exactly that, by discriminating against faith-based adoption agencies that believe every child deserves both a mom and a dad.
If Democrats on the committee succeeded, federal and state governments would have to cease partnering with, and providing funds to, those organizations if they did not abandon their religious beliefs at the behest of the militant LGBT lobby.
Eliminating qualified agencies would reduce America’s capacity to place children in loving homes where they could be fostered or adopted.
Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., defended the work of faith-based adoption agencies. He challenged his colleagues on the other side of the aisle to “take a look at policy instead of politics,” reminding them that child welfare services would not have developed without the work of faith-based communities.
In the United States, child welfare services began with private, faith-based organizations in the early 1800s. The government did not become involved until the early to mid-1900s.
Public-private partnerships with faith-based adoption agencies provide numerous benefits to states’ foster care and adoption programs. Those agencies are uniquely able to recruit prospective parents from faith communities, who are twice as likely to adopt as the general population.
Those organizations also “excel at placing children who may have a more difficult time finding adoptive homes, including older children, sibling groups, and children with special needs,” wrote Natalie Goodnow, a research fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.
Kelly advocated passage of HR 897, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act. The bill prohibits discrimination and adverse action against faith-based organizations who, based on their sincerely held religious beliefs, place children only with a married mom and dad.
The Pennsylvania lawmaker emphasized the inclusiveness of the bill. It does not prevent any child welfare provider from carrying out its mission, nor does it prevent same-sex couples from adopting or fostering.
Every state in the country allows same-sex couples to foster and adopt, and many states and agencies make special efforts to recruit same-sex couples. HR 897 takes an “all hands on deck” approach by ensuring that all providers, secular or faith-based, can continue placing children in nurturing and stable homes.
Kelly pointed out his colleagues’ hypocrisy in labeling faith-based providers as “discriminatory.” Unlike HR 897, which excludes no one, Democrats are proposing legislation like the misleadingly named Do No Harm Act that would discriminate against faith-based agencies for following their consciences.
Rep. Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., misleadingly suggested that faith-based agencies that prioritize placing children with moms and dads are depriving children of loving families. But with a shortage of eligible foster families to care for the more than 435,000 children in the system, it’s shutting down faith-based agencies that would deprive children of “forever families.”
Both Maloney and his fellow New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made statements in support of discrimination against religious adoption agencies, even as, in New York alone, more than 25,000 children are still in the foster care system.
Many children have already been placed in homes by faith-based adoption agencies, and more could be placed if the government would stop targeting these agencies.
New York state has threatened to shutter New Hope Family Services, a faith-based adoption provider. After a site visit by the Office of Children and Family Services that led to praise for the agency’s work, officials returned and confronted New Hope regarding its practice of placing children in homes with a married mother and father. That policy was, according to the family services agency, “discriminatory and impermissible.”
But prioritizing placement of children with a married mom and a dad isn’t discrimination.
As Ryan Anderson—a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation who writes about marriage, bioethics, and religious liberty—has noted, the “legal right of an unmarried or same-sex couple to adopt, where it exists, should not require every adoption provider to perform such adoptions.”
“Requiring that they do so places the interests of adults over those of children, the exact opposite of what good policy on adoption should do,” Anderson wrote.
New Hope treated same-sex couples respectfully, including by referring them to other adoption providers. Nevertheless, the Office of Children and Family Services gave New Hope an ultimatum: Abandon your religious beliefs or stop providing adoption services.
New Hope has filed a lawsuit against the state.
Kelly was indignant at his colleagues’ intolerance, purportedly in the name of tolerance. “I find it interesting that we have decided today that unless you believe what I believe, you are not entitled to provide loving homes for little boys and little girls. Unbelievable,” he said.
If faith-based agencies were shut down, a noticeable impact would be felt by children awaiting adoption or a foster family.
Catholic Charities alone placed 82,000 children with families from 2006 to 2016 and was responsible for 25% to 30% of foster adoptions in Michigan.
There are names and faces behind the numbers. Each of these children are now members of “forever families” that love and cherish them. Without faith-based adoption agencies like Catholic Charities, these placements would not have happened.
Faith-based adoption agencies have an illustrious record of caring for children and placing them in loving homes. Their magnificent work should be allowed to continue.
For the sake of America’s most vulnerable children, Congress should cease politicizing adoption and foster care.
As Kelly said, “If this is about children, let’s make it about children.”
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal