July/August 2019 Church & State Magazine | People & Events

Americans United applauded the June 5 introduction of the Every Child Deserves a Family (ECDF) Act, proposed legislation that will ensure that taxpayer-funded adoption, foster care and child welfare agencies don’t discriminate against children, families and individuals on the basis of religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.

The bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). A companion Senate bill, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), was introduced June 11.

“Too many children dream of a stable, loving family,” Lewis said in a press statement. “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.”

Eight states currently allow taxpayer-funded foster care and adoption agencies to use religion to justify discriminating against qualified parents and volunteers – denying children in foster care the loving homes they need and deserve.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration explicitly authorized this discrimination for all South Carolina foster care agencies – where AU client Aimee Maddonna was turned away from helping children through Miracle Hill Ministries because she believed in the “wrong” religion. President Donald Trump has since hinted that his administration will issue an order extending this policy nationwide in the coming months.

“With the onslaught of religious refusal policies coming out of this administration, it is more important than ever that we enact legislative safeguards. This bill is critical not only because it protects those who are being discriminated against in the name of religious freedom, but because it protects our nation’s most vulnerable children from being denied a home,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United.

Continued Laser, “Our client Aim­ee Maddonna was turned away at the front door of a taxpayer-funded foster care agency in South Carolina for being Catholic – and it was our White House that gave them the license to do so. Government-funded religious discrimination has no place in America. Now, we’re counting on Congress to right this wrong and pass the Every Child Deserves a Family Act to protect our children and our nation’s core value of religious freedom for all.”

Nearly a half-million children are in foster care in the United States. Almost a quarter of these children – more than 123,000 – are currently waiting to be adopted; less than half are likely to find their forever families in the next year.

In endorsing the legislation, Am­eri­cans United is joining more than 500 child welfare, faith, civil-rights and LGBTQ organizations that form the Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign, which seeks to end discrimination in foster care, adoption and child welfare, and to promote affirming care for all children in foster care. The ECDF Act also directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide assistance to states, tribes and agencies to improve services to LGBTQ children in foster care.

To read more about Aimee Maddonna’s case, see “Fostering Discrimination” in the April 2019 Church & State.