Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration is speaking out against a proposed federal bill that protects faith-based foster care agencies that refuse to place adoptive or foster children with qualified LGBT adults.
The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, were it to become law, would impose a massive financial penalty for states that took “adverse action” against faith-based providers that choose not to work with gay couples, single people, or members of another religion. If New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) declined to change a Bloomberg-era anti-discrimination policy, New York State could be exposed to that penalty.
“No matter their sexual orientation, foster and adoptive parents should be applauded for opening their hearts and their homes to some of our most vulnerable children,” said David Hansell, commissioner of the Administration for Children’s Services in a statement. “This bill would deny children the opportunity to be raised in loving, supportive homes and it would unfairly discriminate against LGBTQ people. As commissioner of one of the largest child welfare agencies in the country, I am urging Congress to make sure this shockingly biased amendment never becomes a reality.”
In 2008 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City implemented one of the first non-discrimination policies for foster care in the country. It required nonprofits that contract with the city to place abused or neglected children with qualified, would-be foster parents without regard for the adults’ sexual orientation or gender identity. ACS and De Blasio’s office declined to say whether or not the city will continue to follow this policy if the proposed federal amendment passes. Continuing the policy could expose the state to a loss of federal funding of more than $100 million.
The faith-based federal bill was introduced years ago by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Penn.). Then, last week, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) brought up the controversial proposal again as part of the House Appropriations Committee’s spending bill for the Department of Health and Human Services, which regulates and helps fund child welfare systems nationwide.
States that do not conform to the amendment would face a 15 percent penalty to their federal funding under Title IV-E, the foster care and adoption entitlement, or Title IV-B, which supports family preservation and reunification.
Nine states — all but one with a Republican governor — have passed similar laws since the 2015 Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, including Mississippi, Michigan, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia.
The Aderholt amendment is the federal spear-tip of a state-based movement to pass religious exemption laws. The laws allow government-funded organizations to refuse to work with or serve otherwise qualified citizens if doing so would violate their religious beliefs. If an organization believes marriage should be between one man and one woman, for example, they want to be free to turn away an LGBTQ family interested in taking in a foster child.
New York City’s 2008 non-discrimination guidance bars this approach for its nonprofit contractors, which “must provide services based on principles of sound professional practice and not based on societal, institutional or personal prejudices.”
The stakes are high for America’s foster care systems, many of which are dealing with increased numbers fueled in part by the opioid epidemic. More than half the states either saw the number of foster homes decline from 2012 to 2017 or gained fewer open beds than children in foster care, according to a survey conducted by The Imprint.
The UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute has estimated there are 2 million LGBTQ parents interested in and able to take in a foster or adoptive child, which could help address the foster home shortages faced by many states. Proponents of the faith-based protection laws argue that faith-based providers
Same-sex couples currently raise only around 3 percent of foster children in the United States, and 4 percent of all adopted children, according to the Family Equality Council, a New York-based advocacy group.