ACLU of Virginia and Equality Virginia Urge Gov. McDonnell to End Adoption and Foster Care Discrimination

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
May 13, 2013 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Virginia
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Asks Governor to Consider LGBT Community in “Virginia Adopts” Campaign

May 15, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

Richmond, Va. – This week, the ACLU of Virginia and Equality Virginia asked Governor McDonnell to ensure that the best interests of children inform his “Virginia Adopts” Campaign and that all families are considered and included in his goals to raise awareness about the foster care and adoption process.

“We agree with Governor McDonnell’s statement in the Campaign for 1000 video that every child deserves the security and love a family provides” said James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia. “However, his administration’s actions have continually put the special interests of certain agencies ahead of the best interests of all children in need of a loving family in Virginia. Denying willing families makes no sense when the state itself admits it has more than 4,000 children in the foster care system.”

“There are willing prospective parents in Virginia that continue to be denied the opportunity to adopt or foster children and thousands of children who will continue to be denied loving homes as a result,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga. “If the governor is serious about his goal to change 1,000 lives in 2013 through this campaign, he cannot afford to leave out any eligible prospective families.”

Gastañaga added, “According to the Virginia Department of Social Services’ own website, Virginia leads the nation in the percentage of children who age out of foster care (almost a third) and the average time that children spend in foster care before they find a forever home is the second longest in the nation (more than 18 months). Every child deserves a safe and loving home. No child should be left homeless due to discrimination. No devoted prospective parent should be turned away because of prejudice. The only factor that should guide placement of children in foster care or adoptive homes is the best interest of the child.”

Currently, there is no law prohibiting adoption or foster care by any single adult where such would serve the best interests of the child. Virginia does not allow two people to adopt the same child, however, unless they are a man and a woman who are legally married to each other. Add to this that, in 2012, the legislature authorized private adoption and foster care agencies that are funded with tax dollars to screen and reject potential foster or adoptive parents and children in need of such services based on the agency’s religious beliefs and/or moral principles. This allows state-sanctioned and state-funded discrimination against potential LGBT parents and children, and authorizes discrimination against others based on factors such as age, disability, or religion. This new law does not apply to foster care or adoption services provided directly by local social services agencies. Because they are public entities, the law doesn’t apply and these agencies are constitutionally prohibited from applying a religious litmus test to any decision.

A copy of the letter can be found online here.

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