Adoption experts urge Florida Senate to
reject discriminatory adoption bill
Fewer children will be adopted if bias replaces
the best interest of each child
April 17, 2015
Jim Harper, Media/Communications, [email protected]
National and state child welfare advocates on Friday called on the Florida Senate to reject a measure that would make adoption more difficult in Florida by allowing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to use religion or personal bias to reject prospective parents.
The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI), North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) and Voice for Adoption (VFA) have all spoken out against publicly against this legislation that puts bias of agencies above the needs of children. “We firmly stand against any federal, state, or agency laws or policies that prohibit or discriminate against any qualified individuals and couples from becoming parents due to philosophical or religious beliefs,” the groups announced in a joint statement.
HB7111 would reduce the chances of children being adopted by adding more obstacles in a system that already has large numbers of children reach 18 without ever having been adopted. Florida needs more parents stepping forward, not more obstacles to adoption, they said.
“The process of adopting can be incredibly challenging,” said adoption attorney Maria Bates, who has three adopted children of her own. “When we throw up all these additional barriers that scare families, to say don’t show up at the door unless you look a certain way, we’re going to have less and less families when in fact we need a lot more families to adopt these kids and to be a support for them.”
David Barkey of the Anti-Defamation League pointed out that the bill is written broadly enough that agencies could exclude any group of prospective parents, for religious reasons or “even if you just don’t like them.”
“This isn’t the first time we’ve seen religion used as a cloak for discrimination,” Barkey added. During the Civil Rights era, some people argued they should be allowed to discriminate against black people because their religion told them that segregation was appropriate, he said. “If Florida passes this bill, we would be going backward to such a time.”
In fact the House sponsor repeatedly affirmed that otherwise qualified prospective parents could be turned away based on religion or marital status, among other things.
The bill was hastily written and approved in the House after legislators voted to remove a ban on gay and lesbian adoptions that was ruled unconstitutional in 2010 by a Florida appeals court and not enforced since then. Proponents warned that some adoption agencies would have to go out of business if forced to place children with gay or lesbian parents.
In Florida, all foster-care adoptions are handled by private agencies, under contract with the state.
The Senate rejected amendments that would have added this language to a comprehensive adoption bill that passed last week. This will be the first time the Senate hears the bill as a stand-alone measure.
Equality Florida Institute is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. www.eqfl.org