What is the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (ECDF)?
- ECDF Defined: ECDF is a federal bill that opens up more homes for foster youth by restricting federal funding for states employing discriminatory practices in adoption and foster care placements based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status, or the sexual orientation or gender identity of foster youth.
- Best Interests of the Child: As a child welfare bill, ECDF promotes the best interests of the children in the foster care system by increasing their access to the safe and supportive homes of more than 2,000,000 additional lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people who would consider serving as foster or adoptive parents but face barriers due to existing state laws, regulations, and policies prohibiting them from doing so.
Why is ECDF Necessary?
- Permanencyfor At-Risk Youth: There are an estimated 402,000 children in the U.S. foster care system, approximately 102,000 of which are available for adoption. The current patchwork of state laws does a disservice to these children by denying them access to permanent, safe, and loving homes. In 2013, 23,000 youth “aged out” of the foster care system. Research shows that these youth are at a high risk for poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and early parenthood.
- Children of Color: Over 50% of children in foster care are children of color, while 24% of children waiting for adoption are black (compared to approximately 12% of the general population). In order for all children to find permanent, loving homes, state and local adoption agencies need access to all families and potential parents.
- Categorical Restrictions: Currently, Florida is the only state with a statutory ban prohibiting all LGBTQ people from adopting. A decision by a Florida State Appellate Court has deemed this state law unconstitutional, but it is unclear what the long-term impact of this ruling will be. Utah, Nebraska, and Arkansas have laws or policies barring individuals who live with unmarried partners (same or different-sex) from adopting or fostering; an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling recently found their law unconstitutional. Arizona recently passed a law that allows foster and adoptive agencies to give preference to a married man and woman when considering a child’s placement. In 2012, the Virginia state legislature passed a “conscience clause” law, permitting private foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate against children and potential parents based on any written moral or religious policy.
- Lack of Clarity: The majority of states lack non-discrimination policies and remain silent on how prospective LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents are to be considered. This lack of clear guidance leaves children vulnerable to the individual biases of agencies and case workers and has resulted in children being denied the benefit of being placed with qualified loving LGBTQ parents.
What Evidence Exists in Support of ECDF?
- Scientific Research Supports ECDF: More than 30 years of scientific research overwhelmingly confirms that children raised in LGBTQ-headed households have the same advantages and same expectations for health, social and psychological adjustment, and development as children whose parents are heterosexual.
- LGBTQ Parents are Already Raising Children: 3 million LGBTQ Americans have had a child and as many as 6 million American children and adults have an LGBTQ parent. Among LGBTQ adults under 50 living alone or with a spouse or partner, 48% of women and 20% of men are raising a child under 18.
- ECDF Makes Fiscal Sense: Increasing adoption rates, as well as establishing permanency and decreasing risk factors for youth in foster care can yield an annual cost savings of between $3 and $6 billion.
Who Supports ECDF?
- Major Child Welfare, Public Health and Medical Associations, and Civil Rights Advocates Support ECDF: Professional associations in the fields of child welfare, medicine, psychology and public health, and civil rights advocates have taken official positions in support of the ability of qualified LGBTQ and unmarried couples to foster and adopt. Among these organizations are the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of Social Workers, North American Council on Adoptable Children, American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, and American Academy of Pediatrics. A broad coalition of faith groups supports the Every Child Deserves a Family Act.
- Public Opinion: Public opinion is changing dramatically. The majority of Americans support increasing the number of foster and adoptive families by allowing LGBTQ-headed households to foster and adopt. 64% of Americans see a same-sex couple with children as a family, up 10% from 2003. According to research done by the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute, 6-in-10 (60%) Catholics favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children.
For more information contact:
Emily Hecht-McGowan, Director of Public Policy at email@example.com