It should be so obvious we don’t have to write it: Allowing adoption agencies to ignore millions of potential parents is a terrible idea for our nation’s youth in foster care.
Yet here we are. Last month, the House Appropriations Committee advanced an amendment that, if passed, will allow taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to deny services to same-sex couples on the basis of their religious beliefs. The amendment was introduced by Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama who, unsurprisingly, is ardently opposed to same-sex marriage.
As two American adoptive dads, we challenge Aderholt to come to our home for dinner. We dare him to sit across from us at our table, break bread with us, meet our family, and tell us that we aren’t qualified to be parents.
The process of becoming a family in this way was neither quick or effortless. We were evaluated through training sessions, home studies, home inspections, and interviews -- with basically everyone who has ever known us. During the years-long process, we met a constellation of social workers with whom we shared some of the most intimate details of our lives: our hopes and dreams, our relationships with our parents, our fears and flaws. We were weighed and measured and evaluated by these consummate professionals, and in the end we were officially granted the privilege to become parents to our son, who we love with all of our hearts.
Through it all, we knew that this process exists because the well-being of children in care is the only thing that matters. This is about the children -- not us. Which is exactly why we are so shocked that an amendment like Rep. Aderholt’s could be advanced, allowing agencies like the ones we worked with to potentially turn us away from the get go.
If this bill passes, qualified and devoted parents-to-be just like us could be eliminated before ever being considered -- just because of who they are and who they love.
There are currently a staggering 437,500 children in foster care in our country. This number is growing. Of these children in foster homes, over a hundred thousand of them are available for adoption into forever homes. Meanwhile, more than 2 million LGBTQ people say they would be interested in adopting, but many of them live in places where there are barriers to them doing so. We need more parental candidates now, not fewer.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi couldn’t have said it better when she called this irrational bill a “sickening new low” for Republicans. “House Republicans chose to sacrifice the well-being of little children to push a bigoted, anti-LGBTQ agenda, potentially denying tens of thousands of vulnerable children the opportunity to find a loving and safe home,” Pelosi said in a statement in response to the passing of the amendment. “House Democrats will fight this disgusting, deeply immoral and profoundly offensive effort with all our strength. There is no place for bigotry or discrimination in our foster and adoption systems -- or in any part of our democracy.”
For critics out there who still lean on the outdated argument that children thrive in more “traditional” (read:straight) households, we will note that dozens of studies have shown that children of gay or lesbian parents fare no worse than other children. And the American Academy of Pediatrics supports all different kinds of parents that provide children with a stable home.
On the evening of July 11, we went about our usual routine. We played peek-a-boo, walked the dogs, and made dinner while simultaneously trying to bounce our kid to sleep. However, our hearts were heavy, knowing that many hopeful prospective parents in America now faced a serious new threat. Even worse, we considered the consequences this would have for countless children who as a result may not have the chance to experience family dinners and bedtime stories. We looked at our son and thought about all of the children who might be waiting to be adopted and decided to do something about it. So we went online and started a Care2 petition calling on Rep. Aderholt to pull his amendment. We know we are not alone in our fears, as over 28,000 people have already signed on to the cause in just weeks.
One of the primary challenges to placing American children with forever families quicker is the need for more prospective parents. Limiting the pool of prospective parents for no legitimate reason is unconscionable use of precious, hard-earned taxpayer dollars. It’s a monstrous move that can and must be stopped.
SEAN CARLSON and JAMIE MCGONNIGAL are proud adoptive parents of a son.