Weekly News Digest: October 12th through 19th, 2017

Equality Needed in Adoption

  • A recent piece in the Huffington Post highlights a new report from the Movement Advancement Project that outlines the disturbing and widespread trend of religious exemption laws, which allow or propose to allow businesses, service agencies and others to discriminate in service provision based on religious beliefs. Although a fundamental American value is religious freedom, these laws are twisting a principle that never was intended to allow for discrimination or to create laws and policies that ultimately harm children and families by denying them equality. 
  • In North Dakota, a couple is suing Catholic Charities for denying them the opportunity to adopt a teenage foster child because they were living together but not yet married. Although the couple planned to marry in July, the agency ultimately denied them as applicants based on religious ideologies surrounding living together prior to marriage.

DAI Reflection: We’ve said it before and we will say it again-prospective adoptive parents must be evaluated based on their qualifications, not their sexual orientation, marital status, religion, race, ethnicity or any other aspect of their personhood that in itself has no bearing on the ability to parent. With more than 100,000 children currently awaiting adoption in foster care, we should be creating pathways for permanency, not limiting opportunities based on a perverse and discriminatory interpretation of religious freedom. Check out DAI’s advocacy work to ensure equality in adoption here.

International News

  • A woman born in Mexico and then adopted in the United States found her biological family through the help of social media and the kindness of virtual strangers. This emotional piece in the Houston Chron details the young woman’s sense of peace and solace upon finally being able to learn her full truth. 
  • In Canada, CBC news reports there are currently more indigenous children in care today then there were during the notorious ‘sixties scoop’ era or in residential schools in the past. A legal settlement was awarded to survivors of the sixties scoop although the pain these victims continue to experience today remains palpable. Advocates in the child welfare system today state more needs to be done to eradicate racial discrimination that continues to plague the system, provide culturally relevant services to aboriginal families and to ensure another generation’s culture is not lost.
  • A personal account on CNN details the experience of a couple from Ohio who share of how they believed they were adopting an orphan from Uganda, however since have come to learn that the child has a living mother who believed the child would be provided an education in America, not permanently adopted away from her. The article details the painful journey of loss and the ultimate restoration for the families involved as well as a call for ensuring ethics and transparency.

DAI Reflection: Ethics in adoption requires truth and transparency from the outset. It requires all of us to take a hard look at the market forces that privilege some over others and negate the essence of what family building should be about. Check out DAI’s Let’s Adopt Reform report which touches on several key areas in need of reform in order to preserve families and ensure the best interest of children.

More Care Needed in Foster Care

  • In Kansas, an alarming report from their privatized foster care system that is overseen by Kansas DCF shows that approximately 70 children are missing from their foster homes. The agencies indicate that the children are typically found within an average of two weeks however did admit that there are three sisters who have been missing since August and one child missing for more than two years. Kansas lawmakers and a specialized task force that had prior been established to monitor the state system continue to work on identifying the problem areas and developing solutions. 
  • The Chronicle of Social Change reports that statistics from a new report in California indicate that more than 1/3 of foster youth in transitional housing placements were involuntarily discharged in 2016-2017. John Burton Advocates for Youth has been analyzing the program which has been in existence since the California legislature passed a bill in 2010 extending foster care benefits to youth until the age of 21. According to the advocacy organizations report, some of the youth who were involuntarily discharged appeared to be meeting program requirements yet there may be additional rules being imposed by housing providers that lead to involuntary discharge. The report also shows the average length of stay in the program is a little over a year although youth are allowed to remain for up to three years. 

DAI Reflection: Family preservation is optimal; however when children cannot be safely cared for by their families, the state must ensure their total wellbeing while children are in care. This includes ensuring professionals charged with the responsibility of children have the resources and capacity to provide the care and oversight necessary to ensure physical safety and emotional wellbeing. It is critical that we all come together to prioritize the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society. Read DAI’s research on foster care and the child welfare system here.