By Theresa Covington, director of the Within Our Reach Office at the Alliance

Within Our Reach applauds the reintroduction of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which would prohibit federally-funded child welfare service providers from discriminating against children, families, and individuals based on religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status. Specifically, the bill:

Prohibits adoption or foster care placement entities that receive federal assistance from using the sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of a prospective adoptive or foster parent, or from using the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child, to: (1) deny a person the opportunity to become an adoptive or foster parent; (2) delay or deny the placement of a child for adoption or into foster care; or (3) require different or additional screenings or procedures for adoptive or foster placement decisions, including whether to seek the termination of birth parent rights or to make a child legally available for adoptive placement.

Most importantly, this bill recognizes the historic importance of the federal/state partnership in ensuring all children are protected from abuse and neglect. For child welfare providers, the paramount goal should be to provide safe, stable, nurturing family-centered relationships and environments for all children and youth in the child welfare system. If a child must be removed from their extended family of origin, policies and practices should work quickly and effectively to reunify children with their family of origin, or ensure that strong and healthy family connections can be maintained through a non-relative home.

Child welfare policy must reflect the diversity of our children and our society. With the nation facing a current shortfall in foster care homes, as reported by The Chronicle of Social Change, we strongly support policy decisions that increase the number of opportunities to connect all children with permanent, loving families. This includes ensuring that prospective parents who meet licensing standards are fully considered for foster care placement and adoption.

Currently, there are more than 440,000 children in the foster care system, with over 120,000 of them waiting for a permanent family. More than 20,000 youth “age out” of care each year without any family and with limited support and resources. 

The Every Child Deserves a Family Act will ensure that state-licensed child welfare provider organizations and the public agencies that oversee them will be guided by the universal principle of acting in the best interest of children, regardless of personal and religious beliefs.

About the Author

Theresa Martha Covington is the director of the Within Our Reach Office funded by Casey Family Programs and housed within the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. She is the director of the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths, a position she has held at the Michigan Public Health Institute since 2003. Formerly, she served as a commissioner on the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.