H.R. 3827 (111th): Every Child Deserves a Family Act

111th Congress, 2009–2010. Text as of Oct 15, 2009 (Introduced).

Status & Summary | PDF | Source: GPO

I

111th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 3827

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

October 15, 2009

introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means

A BILL

To prohibit discrimination in adoption or foster care placements based on the sexual orientation, gender identification, or marital status of any prospective adoptive or foster parent.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Every Child Deserves a Family Act.

2.

Congressional findings and purposes

(a)

Findings

The Congress finds the following:

(1)

There is a shortage of qualified individuals willing to adopt or foster a child in the child welfare system. As a result, thousands of foster children lack a permanent and safe home.

(2)

In order to open more homes to foster children, child welfare agencies should work to eliminate sexual orientation, gender identification, and marital status discrimination and bias in adoption and foster care recruitment, selection, and placement procedures.

(3)

Of the estimated 500,000 children in the United States foster care system, over 129,000 cannot return to their original families and are legally free for adoption.

(A)

Fifty-one thousand children were adopted in 2007, while 25,000 youth aged out of the foster care system.

(B)

Research shows that youth who age out of the foster care system are at a high risk for poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and early parenthood.

(C)

Increasing adoption rates, in addition to establishing permanency and decreasing risk factors for foster youth, can yield annual national cost savings between $3,300,000,000 and $6,300,000,000.

(4)

As of 2007, gay, lesbian, and bisexual parents were raising 4 percent of all adopted children and fostering for 3 percent of all foster children. A report from the Evan B. Donaldson Institute found that an additional 2,000,000 gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals are interested in adoption.

(5)

According to the Urban Institute, same-sex couples raising adopted children tend to be older, more educated, and have more economic resources than other adoptive parents. Studies confirm that children with same-sex parents have the same advantages and same expectations for health, social and psychological adjustment, and development as children whose parents are heterosexual.

(6)

An Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute study found that one-third of child welfare agencies in the United States currently reject gay, lesbian, and bisexual applicants, citing a conflict with the religious beliefs associated with the agency, State law prohibiting placement with gay, lesbian, or bisexual parents, or a policy of placing children with married-heterosexual only couples.

(A)

The practice of prohibiting applicants from becoming foster parents or adopting children solely on the basis of sexual orientation or marital status has resulted in reducing the number of qualified adoptive and foster parents overall and denying gay, lesbian, bisexual, and unmarried relatives the opportunity to become foster parents for their own kin, including grandchildren, or to adopt their own kin, including grandchildren, from foster care.

(B)

Over 14,000 children are currently in placements with gay, lesbian, and bisexual adoptive and foster parents. If other States followed the minority of States and discriminated against qualified individuals because of their sexual orientation or marital status, foster care expenditures would increase between $87,000,000 and $130,000,000 per year in order to pay for additional institutional and group care, as well as to recruit and train new foster and adoptive parents.

(7)

Some States allow 1 member of a same-sex couple to adopt, but do not recognize both members of the couple as the child’s legal parents. Recognition of joint and second-parent adoption provides children with the same rights and security that children of heterosexual parents enjoy. These protections include access to both parents’ health benefits; survivor’s, Social Security, and child support entitlements; legal grounds for either parent to provide consent for medical care, education, and other important decisions; as well as the establishment of permanency for both parents and child.

(8)

Professional organizations in the fields of medicine, law, and child welfare have taken official positions in support of the ability of qualified gay, lesbian, bisexual, and unmarried couples to foster and adopt, as supported by scientific research showing sexual orientation as a nondeterminative factor in parental success.

(b)

Purposes

The purposes of this Act are to decrease the length of time that children wait for permanency with a loving family and to promote the best interests of children in the child welfare system by preventing discrimination in adoption and foster care placements based on sexual orientation, gender identification, or marital status.

3.

Every child deserves a family

(a)

Activities

(1)

Prohibition

An entity that receives Federal assistance and is involved in adoption or foster care placements may not—

(A)

categorically deny to any person the opportunity to become an adoptive or a foster parent solely on the basis of the sexual orientation, gender identification, or marital status of the person;

(B)

delay or deny the placement of a child for adoption or into foster care, or otherwise discriminate in making a placement decision, solely on the basis of the sexual orientation, gender identification, or marital status of any prospective adoptive or foster parent; or

(C)

deny or limit the parental rights of an adoptive parent based on the adoptive parent’s sexual orientation, gender identification, or marital status.

(2)

Definition

In this subsection, the term placement decision means the decision to place, or to delay or deny the placement of, a child in a foster care or an adoptive home, and includes the decision of the agency or entity involved to seek the termination of birth parent rights or otherwise make a child legally available for adoptive placement.

(b)

Equitable relief

Any individual who is aggrieved by an action in violation of subsection (a) may bring an action seeking relief in a United States district court of appropriate jurisdiction.

(c)

Federal guidance

Not later than 6 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall publish guidance to concerned entities with respect to compliance with this section.

(d)

Deadline for compliance

(1)

In general

Except as provided in paragraph (2), an entity that receives Federal assistance and is involved with adoption or foster care placements shall comply with this section not later than 6 months after publication of the guidance referred to in subsection (c), or 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, whichever occurs first.

(2)

Authority to extend deadline

If a State demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Secretary of Health and Human Services that it is necessary to amend State statutory law in order to change a particular practice that is inconsistent with this section, the Secretary may extend the compliance date for the State a reasonable number of days after the close of the first State legislative session beginning after the date the guidance referred to in subsection (c) is published.

(3)

Authority to withhold funds

If a State fails to comply with this section, the Secretary may withhold payment to the State of amounts otherwise payable to the State under part B or E of title IV of the Social Security Act, to the extent the Secretary deems the withholding necessary to induce the State into compliance with this section.

(e)

GAO study

(1)

In general

Within 5 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall conduct a study to determine whether the States have substantially complied with this Act, including specifically whether the States have—

(A)

eliminated policies, practices, or statutes that deny to any otherwise qualified person the opportunity to become an adoptive or foster parent solely on the basis of the sexual orientation, gender identification, or marital status of the person;

(B)

removed all program, policy, or statutory barriers that delay or deny the placement of a child for adoption or into foster care, or otherwise discriminate in making a placement decision, solely on the basis of the sexual orientation, gender identification, or marital status of any qualified, prospective adoptive or foster parent; and

(C)

eliminated all policies, practices, or statutes that deny or limit the parental rights of an adoptive parent based on the adoptive parent’s sexual orientation, gender identification, or marital status.

(2)

Report to the congress

Within 1 year after completing the study required by paragraph (1), the Comptroller General shall submit to the Congress a written report that contains the results of the study.