The following letter was submitted by Rev. Lee Zandstra for our New Jersey Lobby Day in December 2018, urging the New Jersey Congressional delegation to cosponsor and pass the Every Child Deserves a Family Act.
Dear Esteemed New Jersey Senators and Representatives:
Today, Dec 10th, is one of the best days of my life. Today my wife, Dori Sabella and I, were given final approval to be foster care parents in New Jersey. I am a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and my wife is a hospice nurse for Penn Medicine at Princeton. We live in Hunterdon County, NJ. We began the foster care parent process back in April 2018, and about nine months later (how fitting!) we have a positive result. Our home has been certified to be safe, our formal training classes have been completed, our home studies checked off, and our interview complete. At every single step of the process, my wife and I were treated with the utmost respect and kindness from every single person in the process, which is many people in case you aren’t aware. Never once was our orientation a topic of conversation, let alone a reason that would have prevented us from opening our loving home to foster care children.
I cannot imagine what LGBTQ couples in other states endure who are denied the opportunity to show love and care to a child in need due to their orientation. Being a foster parent is a special calling and to all those who have that calling, I would hope and expect every state to allow such people to go through the training/accreditation process to become licensed. I also hope and expect every state to protect LGBTQ youth in the foster care system at the highest level possible. Discrimination in foster care harms all foster youth by reducing the pool of available families. LGBTQ youth in foster care also are harmed by discrimination.
As a person of faith, I cannot agree with those who oppose this legislation based on freedom of religion. Faith calls us to care for those most in need, those who are most vulnerable. Faith calls us to love, to put the needs of another before our own. Allowing loving LGBTQ families to open their homes to foster children is a blessing to all involved. Sacrificial love for the sake of a child is never wrong and should never be illegal.
The Every Child Deserves a Family Act ends discrimination in federally funded foster care services against children and parents based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status. It also supports affirming care for LGBTQ foster youth. Please cosponsor and work to pass the Every Child Deserves a Family Act to end anti-LGBTQ discrimination in foster care and adoption and promote affirming care for LGBTQ foster youth.
Thank you for taking the time to hear part of our family’s story and for your consideration to co sponsor this important bill that will protect and strengthen our foster care system across the country.
Rev. Lee Zandstra and Ms. Dori Sabella