ECDF Act Facts
What is the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (ECDF)?
- ECDF Defined: ECDF is a federal bill that opens up more foster and adoptive homes by restricting federal funding to states employing discriminatory practices in adoption and foster care placements based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of potential parents, as well as 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 million 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 preventing them from doing so.
Why is ECDF Necessary?
- Permanency for At-Risk Youth: There are an estimated 427,000 children in the U.S. foster care system, approximately 111,000 of whom 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 2015, 20,000 youth “aged out” of the foster care system, leaving them at a higher risk for poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and early parenthood.
- Disproportionate Overrepresentation of Children of Color: Over 50% of children in foster care are children of color and 24.4% of those children are Black (compared to approximately 13.8% of the general population). One of the requirements for states is that they recruit a pool of foster and adoptive parents that mirrors the population of kids in care. Therefore, it is not insignificant that more than a third of same-sex couples raising children are racial or ethnic minorities – approximately 12% are Black and 15% Latinx, providing states with an adequate pool of prospective adoptive parents who reflect the population of kids in care. In order for all children to have the best chance at finding permanent, loving homes, state and local adoption agencies need to work with all families and potential parents.
- Categorical Restrictions: In Arizona, a law allows foster and adoptive agencies to give preference to a married man and woman when considering a child’s placement. A growing number of states - Virginia, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, and Alabama - have all passed “conscience clause” laws, permitting private foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate against children and potential parents based on moral or religious objections. South Dakota and Alabama enacted conscience clause laws this year, and there were unsuccessful attempts in at least 9 other states to pass similar religious exemption laws.
- Lack of Clarity: Most states lack explicit non-discrimination policies and remain silent on how prospective LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents are to be considered. Although we now have nationwide marriage equality, which makes adoption easier for married same-sex couples in some circumstances, 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. And, despite marriage equality, so-called religious liberty or conscience clause laws create additional vulnerability for LGBTQ youth in care and prospective foster and adoptive parents who are LGBTQ, because they permit service providers to discriminate based on moral or religious objections.
What Evidence Exists in Support of ECDF?
- Scientific Research Supports ECDF: Almost 40 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 are parents 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 people and same-sex 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. In addition, a broad coalition of faith groups support the Every Child Deserves a Family Act.
- Public Opinion: Public opinion is changing dramatically. The majority of Americans believe same-sex couples should have the legal right to adopt children. Sixty-four percent of Americans see a same-sex couple with children as a family, and according to research done by the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute, 6-in-10 (60%) Catholics and 8-in-10 (80%) Jewish people favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children.