LGBTQ Parent and Foster Alumni Voices Heard Loud and Clear on Capitol Hill

ECDF Lobby Day Group

Congressman John Lewis:  We’re gonna get this bill passed.

This week, Family Equality Council and FosterClub hosted briefings at the U.S. Capitol on “Ending Discrimination in Foster Care and Adoption:  LGBTQ Voices.”  Four renowned LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents and six LGBTQ and two-spirit young people with lived experience in the foster care system spoke on the urgent need for passage of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act prohibiting discrimination and dramatically improving affirming services to the one in five foster youth that identify as LGBTQ and two-spirit.

The LGBTQ and two-spirit parents and foster alumni met with over 15 members of Congress and many more Congressional staff.  They spoke about discrimination they have faced.  The experiences they described mirror research showing that qualified LGBTQ, religious and single minority applicants to foster and adopt are frequently turned away by taxpayer-funded foster care agencies, despite a foster care crisis and a drastic shortage of families available to America’s 443,000 foster youth.  Over 123,000 of those youth are waiting to be adopted, but less than half of them will be adopted in the next year – and 20,000 young people age out of foster care every year without a forever family.

Foster alumni spoke of their experiences which also mirror shocking data revealing that LGBTQ and two-spirit foster youth have much greater rates of mistreatment while in foster care, and worse outcomes including long stays in residential care rather than with families, and greater rates of placements, hospitalization for emotional reasons, homelessness, juvenile justice involvement, and being trafficked. Their remarks also highlighted their resiliency and advocacy to protect youth still in care, including laws and policies they have created and impacted nationally and in states like Nevada and Minnesota.

Critically, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA-5), Chairman of the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, committed to passage of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act in the House.  Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance committee, promised parents and alumni to “fight until we this discrimination once and for all.”

LGBT Equality Caucus co-chairs and gay adoptive parents Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY-18) and Congresswoman Angie Craig (D-MN-2) spoke passionately at the House briefing about their experiences of adoption discrimination and their commitment to ensure rapid passage of the bill.  Caucus co-chair Katie Hill (D-CA-25) explained that foster care “is…sadly…prevalent in our district” and that “this is a huge issue for me.”  Rep. Deb Haaland, D-NM-2 committed to participating in a convening to find policy solutions to the dual discrimination that two-spirit indigenous foster youth experience.  Parents and foster alumni met with their Republican members of Congress who may be interested in joining as cosponsors for the Act.

The briefing created momentum for passage of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act in the U.S. House of Representatives in this Congress, by the end of 2020.  That will be an enormous step forward in the fight to provide love, security and families to all of America’s foster youth, and affirming care leading to better outcomes for the 20% of foster youth who are LGBTQ.