Policy & Practice: Advocacy
Letter: February 1, 2012
To: Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services, Subcommittee on Social Services
RE: Testimony on SB 569
Respectfully submitted to the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services, Subcommittee on Social Services by Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, and Susan Smith, Program Director of the Adoption Institute.
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute is an independent/nonpartisan, nonprofit research, policy and education organization. We conduct research and analysis in order to improve adoption-related laws, policies and practices. This written testimony regarding SB 569 is intended to explain the state of professional knowledge on one of those issues: the availability (or lack thereof) of adoptive families for "waiting" children in the foster care system and the suitability of gays and lesbians to provide such families. The Institute has conducted the most extensive studies to date on this issue: Expanding Resources for Children I, II and III. They can be found at http://adoptioninstitute.org.
We believe that passing SB 569 – which would amend the Code of Virginia by adding § 63.2-229, prohibiting contracts with or funding of child-placing agencies that engage in discrimination – is in the best interest of children in the state's foster care system. Nationally, there are over 107,000 waiting children, who on average have been in care for over three years, and in Virginia there are about 1,500 girls and boys waiting for adoptive families. Multiple recent studies find that these children, most of whom are older and have special developmental challenges, are at considerable risk of serious negative outcomes if they are not adopted. These risks include poverty, homelessness, incarceration, victimization, early parenthood, and significant physical and mental health problems. To succeed, they need parents to provide nurture and support, not just during childhood but throughout young adulthood.
Though adoptions from foster care have grown over the past decade, the percentage of youth exiting care without permanent families has increased – about 28,000 "graduate" each year from care without such families. According to a recent Child Welfare Outcomes Report from the U.S. Children's Bureau, states vary in their ability to find homes for older youth. This report finds that a fairly low percentage of Virginia's child welfare adoptions – 13.3% – are of teens aged 13 or older. Several neighboring jurisdictions report higher rates: 20.2% in Tennessee, 18.2% in Kentucky, and 17% in Washington, DC.
Lesbian and gay parents are important family resources for waiting children across our country. Several studies have documented that these adults are willing to adopt the very children most in need of homes – those who are older and have special needs – and do so at a higher rate than heterosexual adults. Among same-sex couples raising children, 19% have adopted, which is a much higher percentage than is the case for the general population; according to the U.S. census, 2.5% of all children are adopted. Gay and lesbian adults provide a significant number of families for children who need foster or adoptive homes – over 14,000 children are estimated to live in lesbian- or gay-led foster families today, while at least 65,000 adopted children are being raised by gay and lesbian adoptive parents.
Major professional groups, such as the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, as well as child welfare organizations overwhelmingly support these adoptions. The support of these professional organizations is not surprising. A quarter century of research has found that children raised by gay and lesbian parents fare as well as those reared by heterosexual parents.
Every minute we retain the status quo, allowing agencies that serve children in the child welfare system to discriminate against these families, undermines the prospects of some boys and girls to find permanent, loving homes. Applicants should be judged on their qualifications, not their sexual orientation. Including gays and lesbians as adoptive parents would also save the state substantial funds annually, resulting from moving children from foster care to adoption.
Too often, public policy relating to adoption has been based on aberrational anecdotes, emotional appeals, and corrosive myths. Instead, please examine the research. I believe that, after you do, you will come to the same conclusion: To exclude qualified and eager prospective foster and adoptive parents is to place the wishes/beliefs of some individuals over the desperate need for homes for children. The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute strongly urges you to vote against this legislation. Please feel free to contact me at (617) 332-8944 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or need more information. Thank you for your attention and for your important work.
Adam Pertman, Executive Director