There are as many as 400,000 children in the United States currently in the foster care system, and more than 104,000 of those children are eligible for adoption. On May 16, 2013, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (ECDF) was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives. ECDF prohibits public agencies that receive federal assistance from discriminating against prospective foster or adoptive parents based on the sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of adoptive or foster parents, or the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child involved. ECDF may come across as being a bill that solely protects the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender (LGBT) parents and children, however it also prevents discrimination based on marital status, meaning it protects the rights of unmarried relatives that want to adopt their own kin.
Denying unmarried relatives the right to adopt their own kin puts unnecessary suffering on children that should not be part of the child welfare system. It is crucial for us as a community to be aware of ECDF as a policy that benefits all of society’s social and financial well-being.
For some members of our community, anything that has to do with the LGBT community brings about feelings of hostility. But ECDF is not about the LGBT community; it is about the well-being of our children, children that need stable, nurturing, and loving homes. Members of the community might argue that LGBT parents are not fit to raise children. However, numerous studies have been conducted that prove that same-sex adoptive parents promote healthy cognitive and emotional development in high-risk populations, in a way similar to different-sex adoptive parents. ECDF’s purpose is to benefit the well-being of our children by adding same-sex couples and single-parents to the list of prospective parents, so that thousands of children in the foster care system have a better chance of finding a permanent home.
Finding stable homes for children in the foster care system has proven to be extremely important due to the fact that children in unstable homes have lower cognitive levels and psychological problems. Adding same-sex couples as prospective parents will help a great number of these children find stable homes, which will lead to improvements in the cognitive and psychological levels of the children. When children grow up in nurturing environments, they have a greater chance of becoming productive members of society.
Children that are placed in permanent homes have higher understanding levels and improved psychological outcomes, which truly reveals the importance of providing foster children with stable homes. Statistics show that gay and lesbian parents are more likely than heterosexual parents to adopt high-risk children, as well as children from a different ethnicity than their own. It is apparent that ECDF will benefit the well-being of many foster children, especially children that are hard to place due to emotional, physical, or cognitive problems.
ECDF will also prevent and address youth homelessness by providing a great number of foster youth with permanent, loving homes. According to the National Coalition for Homelessness, approximately 60% of homeless LGBT youth were previously in foster care. More than 25% of former foster children become homeless within two to four years of leaving foster care, while 50% of foster children aging out of foster care become homeless within six months due to the limited education and support provided to children that age out of foster care. Allowing LGBT and unmarried individuals to adopt or foster children in foster care therefore has the potential for decreasing youth homelessness and improving the lives of children that have already faced adversity simply by being part of the foster care system.
Aside from improving the lives of thousands of children in foster care, ECDF also has monetary benefits for general society. If same-sex couples and single-parents were to be banned from adopting children across the nation researchers speculate this ban would cost $87 to $130 million in increased foster care expenditures, resulting in individual states losing $100,000 to $27 million a year, with California being the hardest hit by such a ban. Decisions made regarding the well-being of children in foster care should not be driven solely by monetary means, however, the monetary benefits of ECDF cannot be overlooked.
Social policies are meant to improve the lives of vulnerable populations and people most seriously in the need of help. ECDF’s purpose is to provide more children currently in foster care with stable homes by allowing same-sex couples and single parents to adopt or become foster parents. The emotional, cognitive, and life changing opportunities that same-sex couples and single-parents can bring to foster children cannot be overlooked.
Rosenda Cabrera-Ortega is studying for her Masters Degree in Social Work at the University of Southern California. She is a resident of Bell Gardens.