Why Do States Want to Deny Foster Children a Place to Call Home?

As a child, I spent almost a decade being shuffled through 14 different foster care placements, including two group homes. It wasn't until I was 12 years old that a family came along and gave me the permanent, loving home of my dreams.

I will forever be grateful for the incredible family I was given. When I dreamed of the perfect family for me, I wished for kind people of any gender or age who would help me achieve my goals and provide the stability I desperately needed. Sadly, across the United States over 20,000 youth age out of foster care each year without the love and support of a family or a healthy support community. These youth often become criminals, homeless, teen parents, or are victims of drugs, violence, or suicide. There is a significant shortage of foster and adoptive families willing to nurture these children.

Yet many state legislatures are proposing bills that would further diminish the pool of qualified people who want to offer permanency to children languishing in foster care. These bills would allow agencies to reject families or individuals based on "religious" grounds. By denying children a chance to have a family, the shortage of available homes will be exacerbated, and more of these youth may never find permanency. Every foster child deserves to have every chance to find a loving home.

Decisions to block adoptions based on gender, race, or sexual orientation impact more than just the forgotten children. Unattached children can have a lifelong negative impact on society. The cost of keeping youth in state care burdens taxpayers. We should be giving agencies the tools and resources to engage more families — not give them the ability to discourage or turn away suitable applicants.

Because of the stability my permanent family provided, I was able to go to college and create a life that I never could have imagined. I now have my master's degree in social work and my first memoir, "Three Little Words," is an international bestseller. I even ran for Florida's state Senate when I was 26 years old because I wanted to provide a voice to those who don't have one. My husband and I became foster and adoptive parents and have cared for over 20 children — each with their own unique story, family of origin, and hopes.

I've had the opportunity to speak with many youth who have aged out of care. Most say that they would have taken any family that would have made a commitment to them. These children are generally not blinded by stigmas and societal prejudice — they simply yearn for a place to call home and are in desperate need of advocates who will stand up for their rights and well-being.

As a child welfare professional, I have been lucky enough to work with many same-sex couples, and I find them to be among the most dedicated, passionate, and understanding parents. They themselves know what it's like to be rejected, alone, ridiculed, stigmatized, and to be treated as outsiders. Like the foster kids that come into care through no fault of their own, life hasn't always been easy for members of the LGBT community either.

I've had a lifetime's worth of exposure to the foster care system and understand the needs of these vulnerable children intimately. This is why I urge lawmakers in Florida, Alabama, Michigan, and other states considering adoption discrimination bills to do everything in their power to stop these bills before they hurt hundreds of thousands of kids in need.

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Anonymous

Agree, we are living in modern day Sodom and Gomorrah

Anonymous

good news

Anonymous

I HOPE ALL states pass this bill. Queers should NOT be allowed to raise kids. What are they going to raise? More queers? I think we have enough already. Put them all back in the fucking closet and lock the damn door!

Anonymous

Do you realize, how inhuman and cruel it is to say that? What is it that gives you the right to opening beat us down in such ways? Its hurtful, destructive, and heartless.

Anonymous

You obviously don't know what is means to be "Queer", from the way you speak you think being gay is a decision. It won't matter if the child is raised by gays, religious people or even race. If the kid is gay there is no getting around that. That is why we hear tragic stories of gay girls and boys getting kick out of their homes if their parents don't agree.

Cheryl McCarty

Thank you Ashley for all you do.

Tzurah Chaya

I find it incredibly sad that children grow up under such strain and can age out without ever having experienced security. I entered a less formal care arrangement (the system being a mess where I was) as an older teen and even though I spent the bulk of my life with parents who could have been better in so many ways and who failed me horrifically the time I spent with the people who took me in is something I often think of.

I of course, having known only dysfunction, found them a bit odd at first but they had been doing this for many kids and as some of us would find our way back even as adults they created a sense of permanence by keeping nearly everything exactly as always.

I was their last (as they were getting older and he usually found kids who the strain of the actual system would negatively impact their last years in school at school ) Even so when a bad back made a train ride back to my university impossible, when I was still in hospital my foster father would come and walk me (hurt but to not walk was to delay discharge) and I would finish my recovery in my room. His wife apologized for one minor change to "my" room. I found that sweet but it had been explained it was exactly for the unexpected return for various reason of the many who had known their loving kindness that they kept things very unchanged. More so then people raised in secure environments the relief of "ah here's my cup and it's Friday so I guess it's fish" and so on well a few months can heal more than people think.

Better still though would be years.

Some of the most loving parents I know are in same sex marriages (Canada has had it some time and prior to it being passed into law a number of churches had been marrying people . Same sex couples often feared discrimination when it came to adoption or fostering but such discrimination is a Charter of Rights and Freedoms violation. )

I know a couple who having taken in one child with FAS chose to continue to adopt kids with it as they felt they had acquired knowledge that was useful. Someone asked them once in my hearing didn't they want at least one "normal" child and they replied many people would take those kids but the challenges of FAS children are no for the faint of heart so they felt it would be wasted.

Being Canadian I don't really understand how a country that has separation of Church and State so strongly into law has so many laws were religion is way too large a factor.

Children need security but from my own experience I would say it is never too late to provide some security and normalcy for teens who would otherwise make their way into the world thinking the dysfunction they were used to was the norm.

Samuel

Thank you for fighting for my rights to be a parent. I know my husband and I would be great parents. I want to start the process of growing my family, but am very scared of the hardship I am about to face. More then that is the fear of my children being ridiculed for having same sex parents. I too am seeking to be a voice for those of us who can not fight the fear.

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