Opinion – The Latest Victims of Trump’s Cruelty? Foster Children and Gay Families

An administration proposal would make it easier to discriminate against gay families who want to adopt through the foster care system.

“I know a way out of hell,” says Ben Kingsley, as Mohandas Gandhi, in Richard Attenborough’s 1982 film.

He’s speaking to a Hindu man who has killed a Muslim child, to even the score after his own son has been murdered.gay foster

“Find a child, a child whose mother and father were killed, and raise him as your own. Only be sure that he is a Muslim, and that you raise him as one.”

The first time I saw that movie, 37 years ago, that scene took my breath away, and not only because of Mr. Kingsley’s performance, for which he won an Academy Award. What has also lingered with me is the idea that the mission of parenthood is not to raise a child to be another version of you, but to help that child become himself or herself.

Donald Trump probably hasn’t seen that movie — or if he has, its message was lost on him. That would explain why his administration is enacting policies that enshrine discrimination and cruelty in foster care and adoption for gay families.

On any given day in this country, close to 440,000 children are in foster care, awaiting reunification with their original families or placement with new adoptive parents. You’d think that any qualified parents willing to make the enormous commitment to bringing a foster child into their home would be welcomed, hailed as heroes.

But then maybe you forgot the Trump mantra: Cruelty always comes first.

Incredibly, this is never so true as when children are concerned. We’ve seen it at the border, where immigrant children are separated from their parents and put in cages. We’ve seen it in the decimation of the Education Department, whose budget he has attempted to cut for three years running.

And we see it in a new policy under consideration to make it easier for adoption agencies to discriminate against parents — against non-Christians, against same-sex couples, against anyone, really, who doesn’t fit the agencies’ particular definition of what makes a family.

In January, the administration granted a waiver to Miracle Hill Ministries in South Carolina, exempting it from the Obama-era requirement that adoption agencies receiving federal funding must be accepting of all families. Which means that Miracle Hill — the state’s largest provider of foster families for children who don’t have significant special needs — can now turn away non-Christian foster parents and mentors, and anyone else who doesn’t pass muster.

NYTimes.com, By

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Civil rights groups sue over Trump foster care policies

Civil rights groups are filing a lawsuit against the Trump foster care policies and the state of South Carolina, alleging the governments are making it easier for taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against same-sex and non-evangelical couples.

Thursday’s lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Lambda Legal was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on behalf of a married lesbian couple. Eden Rogers and Brandy Welch were turned away by Miracle Hill Ministries, South Carolina’s largest state-contracted, federally-funded foster care agency.  The suit targets Trump foster care policies.Trump foster care policies

The lawsuit comes after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) earlier this year granted a waiver to a faith-based adoption agency in South Carolina that allows it to continue turning away same-sex and non-Christian couples while receiving federal money.

The ACLU and Lambda Legal said the federal waiver means the administration is condoning discrimination, and the lawsuit said the use of religious eligibility criteria is unconstitutional.

“This practice harms vulnerable children by denying them access to the loving families they desperately need and limits opportunities for would-be foster parents to participate in the public child welfare system on the basis of religion and sexual orientation,” the lawsuit said.

According to the groups, in order to foster through Miracle Hill, a family must agree with Miracle Hill’s “doctrinal statement,” including “that God’s design for marriage is the legal joining of one man and one woman in a life-long covenant relationship.”

Miracle Hill has said they refer couples who do not meet their criteria to other agencies, but the lawsuit noted those other couples are offered only a limited set of options, and are excluded from the state’s largest agency with potentially the most support to offer adoptive couples.

“Trump’s HHS and South Carolina should not be permitting foster care agencies that receive taxpayer money to care for wards of the state to disqualify potential foster parents because they don’t conform to a religious litmus test,” said Currey Cook, counsel at Lambda Legal. “Agencies have no right to exclude families because of their faith or sexual orientation.”

Recent reports suggest the administration is planning to release a new rule as early as this summer that would make it easier for federally-funded foster care facilities to deny services to same-sex couples.

TheHill.com, May 30, 2019, by Matthew Weixal

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LGBTQ Literature for Children and Teens Comes of Age

LGBTQ Literature for Children and Teens becomes relevant and contemporary.

LGBTQ literature is taking a new turn.  When David Levithan wrote the YA novel Boy Meets Boy (Knopf, 2003), he faced a precedent in which books with LGBTQ characters were issue-based: focused on the angst of coming out in a hostile world. “We were tired of the misery plot, and wanted to re-write it,” Levithan recalls. “I wanted to write a romantic comedy.”

Today, that “misery plot” is no longer the norm and 2016’s children’s books and YA novels depict a wider range of LGBTQ experiences and family dynamics. Increasingly, the central conflict has little to do with being gay.

Such is the case with Levithan’s upcoming YA novel You Know Me Well (St. Martin’s Griffin, June), which he co-wrote with Nina LaCour, about the burgeoning friendship between a boy and a girl – both comfortably out, and both navigating the uncertainty of imminent adulthood.LGBTQ literature

“Nina and I wrote the book because we really wanted to show the common ground between a lesbian character and a gay character,” Levithan says. “Part of that is navigating romantic relationships, which is hard no matter who you love.”

Levithan, who is also editorial director and publisher at Scholastic, notes the characterization of queer characters has become far more nuanced. “Authors are really delving into what it means to have this identity,” he says. For instance, Jane B. Mason’s Without Annette (Scholastic Press, Jun.) depicts the growing tension between two girlfriends as they maneuver through the politics and elitism of a new boarding school.

Without Annette is about navigating love,” says Levithan. “The fact that they’re girls attracted to girls – there’s obviously something specific to that, but it doesn’t define their love.”

Similarly, in Kody Keplinger’s Run (Scholastic Press, July), the main character’s bisexuality doesn’t define her. “Certainly a decade ago, if these characters existed, the whole story would be about that facet of their identity,” Levithan said.

Characters are increasingly certain of who they are, so there’s less drama around the search for identity. This assuredness is evident even in some middle grade novels and picture books. Sara Cassidy’s middle grade book A Boy Named Queen (Groundwood, Aug.) is about a boy who flouts convention and sees no need specify his orientation throughout the book.

“The story for every child isn’t going to be about coming out as LGBTQ,” says Groundwood president and publisher Sheila Barry. “In [A Boy Named Queen], the kid is very confident in every aspect of his being.” Similarly, in the picture book Big Bob, Little Bob (Candlewick, Oct.), by James Howe and illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson, Little Bob, who dresses in girls’ clothes and wears flowers in his hair, is perfectly comfortable with who he is and what he likes.

Family and Friends

While there’s still a place for stories about understanding sexual orientation or gender identity, those narratives now show a broader range of relationships within friendships and families.

LGBT Advocates Outraged at Utah Judge

LGBT Advocates Outcry: Rights Violation!

Utah Judge Takes Foster Child From Couple Because They’re Lesbians

LGBT advocates and even Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton were outraged and April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce of Carbon County, Utah, were stunned when Judge Scott Johansen ordered their foster child removed from their home. The judge said the baby would be better off with heterosexual parents.

The couple, who legally wed in October 2014, have taken care of the 1-year-old girl for three months, and her birth mother has asked them to adopt the child. The Utah Division of Child and Family Services has been forced to find new housing for the child, but officials say they will appeal the judge’s decision.

utah-lesbians

“We love her and she loves us, and we haven’t done anything wrong,” Peirce told the Salt Lake Tribune. “And the law, as I understand it, reads that any legally married couple can foster and adopt.”

Attorneys for DCFS are currently reviewing the decision. “If we feel like [Johansen’s] decision is not best for the child, and we have a recourse to appeal or change it, we’re going to do that,” DCFS director Brent Platt said. “For us, it’s what’s best for the child.”

“Any loving couple if they are legally married, and meet the requirements, we want them to be involved,” he added.

The child’s state-appointed attorney supports the couple. The birth mother’s lawyer, who was in court with the couple when the decision was handed down, has said the mother is upset and wants her baby to stay with the women.

Judge Johansen, who the Tribune reported has repeatedly been reprimanded by the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission for “demeaning the judicial office,” claimed to have research proving children are better off when raised by heterosexual parents. In reality, all credible major studies show that a parent’s sexual orientation has no effect on a child’s social development and mental health.

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Advocate.com, November 12, 2015 by Bill Browning

Gay Parent Adoption: Their Perfect Family!

Here’s How These Two Dads Created Their Perfect Family, a Story of Gay Parent Adoption

I guess you could consider it just another average slice of American life when Ted, a screenwriter and game developer (gamers take note, Ted was a senior developer for the seminal “Elder Scrolls” series) from Ohio, and his husband, Ian, a merchandiser from England, attended a recent potluck lunch celebrating cultural diversity at kindergarten with their adopted, multiracial child, Mikey.

What was their contribution? Well, how exactly does one best represent Ohio/England/African American ancestry? Why, casserole, of course, says Ted. A blend of noodles, chicken and vegetables seems an appropriate choice for this potpourri of a family. You could make the argument that such families are appropriately representative of new wave multiculturalism in America — a country once famous for its open doors.

Food is somewhat central to this story. Ian and Ted met at a friend’s dinner party in Venice Beach in October of 2005. They had their commitment ceremony with about a hundred friends at their place in April of 2007, and they were married just last year.

They talked about being parents very early on and investigated ways to make that happen — including gay parents adoption, gay parents adopting, gay parent adoption, adoption for gay parents, surrogacy. Ultimately, they felt that the process was overly expensive and that their own DNA was not that precious when there were kids in foster care that needed parents.

Additionally, Ian and his sister were adopted and Ian was very comfortable with not needing “blood” relations. They met Robyn Harrod and Sylvia Fogelman at the Southern California Foster Family & Adoption Agency (SCFFAA) and started to take all of the required classes. Those initial classes, Ted explained, were somewhat therapeutic for Ian. Going through the thoughts and planning that his adopting parents went through gave him a fuller understanding of the love and commitment given to both him and his sister.

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By JAmesMichael Nichols – HuffPostGay via @raiseachild – September 11, 2015

There are all kinds of kids in the foster system. This Huffington Post Gay Voices RaiseAChild.US “Let Love Define Family®” series installment presents one child whose sweet nature and quick wit adds a lot of spice and laughter to the lives of his two dads. RaiseAChild.US contributing writer David Humiston shares the story.

Same Sex Families Foster Parenting Victory

Same Sex Families Foster Parenting Victory in Nebraska

Yesterday, a Nebraska District Court ruled that a discriminatory policy that barred same sex families from becoming foster parents was unconstitutional. The two-decade-old policy, Memo I-95, barred same sex families from obtaining state foster parent licenses.

This change will finally allow child welfare agencies to expand the pool of foster and adoptive families for Nebraska’s children.
“Nebraska’s motto of ‘Equality before the Law’ rings out more truly for all of us on this thrilling day,” Danielle Conrad, Executive Director of ACLU of Nebraska, said in a release. “This is a special victory for thousands of children in Nebraska who now have more options to find loving and stable
homes.”
Earlier this year, Nebraska child welfare officials announced they would stop enforcing the law.
Click here to read the entire article.

 

HRC.org, by Hayley Miller, August 6, 2015

Breaking down barriers so foster kids can find a family

Seattle (CNN) — David Wing-Kovarik and his partner, Conrad, were ready to adopt a child.

They moved through all their requirements smoothly, even completing an orientation and training course for prospective parents.

Then they were confronted with their first real stumbling block.

“Our adoption agent said, ‘Well, you both look the same on paper, so who’s going to be the parent?'” Wing-Kovarik recalls.

In Arizona, where the couple lived at the time, only individuals and legally married couples may adopt from the U.S. foster care system. But because a same-sex couple cannot legally marry in the state, only one parent can be granted legal rights to the child.

“We saw (it) as a disadvantage to the child,” said Wing-Kovarik, 47. “We, frankly, got very angry about it when we thought about everybody else that was in the (training) class. None of them were asked this question. And it came down to the fact that we were a male couple. This was when we first experienced how being that gay couple just adds to the complexity of the whole process. It makes it much harder.”

In 18 states and the District of Columbia, same-sex couples can jointly petition to adopt a child. But in the other states, such as Arizona, the law either restricts joint adoption or is unclear.

That only adds confusion and frustration to what is already a “mind-numbing” adoption process, Wing-Kovarik said.

“It makes your head spin with the questions that are asked of you, with the forms that you have to fill out,” he said. “And then you have on top of that the fact that your family might not be that mom-and-dad home. You’re that gay or lesbian family … and the questions begin to change.”

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Arkansas court skeptical of reasons for banning unmarried couples from adopting or fostering children

Thursday, March 17, 2011 – Nancy Polikoff –
Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage

It’s always risky to predict the outcome of a case based on oral argument. Nonetheless, I’ll predict that the Arkansas Supreme Court will affirm the decision of a trial judge in Cole v. Arkansas Dept. of Human Services that the state’s ban on adoption and fostering by anyone living with a nonmarital partner violates the state’s constitution. The ban was enacted by voters in 2008. You can watch the argument on the court’s website here. Although a lawyer for the state did argue briefly, the lawyer who primarily argued for upholding the ban represented the intervenors, the Family Council Action Committee, the Arkansas group behind placing the matter on the ballot in 2008. The plaintiffs are represented by the ACLU, which has once again done a top notch job.

Before the US Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that its criminal prohibition on private consensual sex in the home violated the state’s constitution. The importance of that case, Jegley v. Picado, played a large role in today’s hearing. The trial court found the ban a violation of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights as articulated in Jegley. The appellants disagree, arguing that the ban is nothing like the intrusion of criminalizing behavior in the home. The justices did not appear to buy it. They repeatedly returned to the fundamental right articulated in Jegley and expressed skepticism that the ban was anything but a direct and substantial burden on the exercise of that right.

If the ban violates the fundamental right of the plaintiffs then it cannot stand unless it is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest. But if there is no fundamental right at stake, then the ban survives as long as it has a “rational basis.” The intervenors and the state argued that the rational basis test allows the generalization that, as a group, the homes of “cohabiting” couples are less stable and more volatile than other homes, and that therefore an individual review of each applicant in such a situation is not required, even though some of those homes would be suitable.

When one of the justices asked the lawyer for the intervenors if he conceded he would lose if the court applied “heightened scrutiny,” he said no. He said the “life” of the child was at stake (that’s how he characterized the state’s interest on several occasions) and that the state couldn’t be required to place children in the “riskiest” and “poorest performing” home environments.

In what was perhaps the most astonishing part of the argument by the appellants, both lawyers asserted that the state’s screening process is not good enough to weed out unsuitable applicants. They called the process “imperfect” and “not foolproof” and said that mistakes are made. When one of the justices responded that the lawyer for the agency was acknowledging his system to be a failure, the lawyer said the Department of Human Services was doing the best it could but that people lie and “slip through” their process. He later backpedaled and said he had misspoken, but in the process he asserted the problem was everywhere and that caseworkers are overworked and the agency does not have sufficient funding.

So this is what it’s come to. There is no response to the assertion of the plaintiffs, echoed by judges on the court, that no one is allowed to foster or adopt a child without first going through an agency or judicial approval process. So apparently to justify excluding an entire category of applicants from the opportunity to show that a placement in their home is in the best interest of a child, the government lawyer must argue that his agency is not capable of doing its job properly. I find it impossible to imagine that the Arkansas Supreme Court will base its decision on such reasoning.

The lawyers for the plaintiffs reiterated the individual process each applicant goes through. He said that any studies about groups of children are irrelevant because of that, but he did further argue that whatever correlation there may be between “cohabitation” and child outcome does not demonstrate that the cohabitation causes the problems. He also told that court that it could not rule against the gay and lesbian plaintiffs without overruling the court’s decision in Howard. In that case a unanimous court struck down an administrative regulation preventing a gay person or anyone living with a gay person from being licensed as a foster parent. The authors of both the majority and concurring opinions in Howard remain on the bench.

One of the court’s newest justices, Courtney Hudson Henry, asked the lawyer for the intervenors the last question of the argument. She noted that a gay person living alone with multiple sexual partners is eligible to adopt, as long as that person doesn’t live with a partner. (I wish she has left the qualifier “gay” off her statement, as it is true for a heterosexual with multiple partners as well). The response she received was that the ban is concerned with the dynamics and volatility of cohabiting relationships and break ups and there are a variety of reasons an individual might be denied the ability to adopt or be a foster parent.

And so it has come to this. The same state that cannot be trusted be weed out cohabiting couples whose homes are not good for children can be trusted to weed out single applicants who sleep around (without having police go snooping in their homes, which everyone agrees Jegley does not allow). Of course, that’s not the point. In fact, the point of the ban has nothing to do with children and everything to do with stigmatizing both same-sex and unmarried different-sex relationships. I don’t think the Arkansas Supreme Court is buying it.

Politicians refuse to act after churches win right to discriminate against gay foster parents

The Australian – December 27, 2010

BOTH the NSW government and opposition have ruled out any changes to the state’s anti-discrimination laws in the wake of a ruling that charities could bar gay couples as foster carers on religious grounds. In a decision that will open the way for other religious charities to refuse gay couples access to their services, the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal ruled that Wesley Mission’s foster care arm, Wesley Dalmar Services, had proved an exemption under the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act allowing it to discriminate against homosexual couples, reported The Australian. Wesley Mission, part of the Uniting Church assembly, argued that providing foster care services to gay couples would put at risk its financial and volunteer assistance from members of the mission who adhered to the doctrine that a monogamous heterosexual partnership was “the norm and ideal of the family”.

The decision overturned a ruling that ordered Wesley Mission to take steps to eliminate unlawful discrimination after refusing services to a gay couple.

NSW’s Anti-Discrimination Act – along with similar acts in most states – provides a series of exemptions for religious bodies. The exemptions apply specifically to the ordination and training of priests and ministers.

However, an extremely broad, non-specific exemption also applies to “any act or practice” of a religious body that conforms to that body’s doctrines.

The Administrative Decisions Tribunal described the ability of a religious group to prove an exemption to the act as “singularly undemanding” and noted that “this may be a matter which calls for the attention of parliament”.

However, a spokesman for NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said yesterday that the legislation struck the right balance between protection from discrimination and the right to religious freedom.

“It is not envisaged that there will be changes to the current exemptions in relation to religious institutions,” the spokesman said.

NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell also ruled out yesterday any move to push for legislative change on the issue if the Liberals win government next March.

Religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws are also being tested in Victoria in an appeal before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which must decide whether it was lawful for the Christian Brethren to refuse to allow a gay youth suicide prevention group accommodation at the Christian Youth Camps’ Phillip Island Adventure Resort.

NSW passed laws earlier this year that allowed gay couples to legally adopt children, but allowed church adoption agencies the right to refuse to provide services to gay couples without breaching anti-discrimination laws.

Obama Recognizes Gay Dads

  • By Candace Chellew-Hodge – 6.21.10
  • When President Obama issued his statement this past weekend in recognition of Father’s Day, he mentioned one class of fathers that no other president before him has acknowledged: gay dads.

    Nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a stepfather, a grandfather, or caring guardian.

    His acknowledgement of the labor of love two men may put into their relationship with their children drew quick reaction from the “pro-family” but anti-gay set. Christian Broadcasting Network White House Correspondent David Brody tsk-tsked the president, warning he’s alienating religious folks:

    First of all, by putting “two fathers” in your proclamation you are really running the risk of alienating networks of pastors and church goers who may buy into the President’s overall but draw the line when it comes to traditional marriage. You put these normally supportive pastors in a tough situation because the fact of the matter is the whole ‘two fathers’ scenario DOES NOT play well in most Churches in America. And that is completely understandable.

    My first reaction to that concern was, “welcome to our world.” The LGBT community has been alienated from most of the world for the majority of history, so pastors and churchgoers who balk at the president’s words can enjoy, just for a moment, our reality. Alienation is something we’re familiar with — kicked out of our families, kicked out of our churches, fired for being who we are, denied housing for being who we are, denied the rights and responsibilities of marriage. You want alienation? Mr. Brody, the line starts behind me.

    Of course, Brody’s reaction is tame compared to Peter LaBarbera over at Americans for Truth about Homosexuality who gives his usual rant about how gay men are promiscuous (because no straight men are, right?).

    But even if two homosexual men keep their disordered relationship “faithful,” homosexual parenting would not be worthy of celebration, LaBarbera said: “It is wrong to force children into a situation where they have two men modeling immoral behavior — condemned by God and all major religions — as the most important role models in their lives.”

    Aside from the “scare quotes” around the word “faithful,” LaBarbera makes no sense here. What “immoral behavior” is he talking about? Does he really believe gay dads have sex in front of their children? Do LaBarbera and his wife do “immoral” things in front of their children? Or, perhaps, LaBarbera believes it’s immoral for kids to see their gay dads go to work every day, take out the trash, and instruct their children to clean their rooms and make their beds. What horrible fathers!

    There is not a shred of proof that gay men are worse fathers than

    straight men. In fact, a recent study, quoted in the Advocate, showed that “gay fathers were more likely to scale back their careers in order to care for their children. Another difference was that gay fathers also saw their self-esteem and relationships with their extended families greatly improve when they had children.” Far from being “immoral” it seems that fatherhood is good for gay men, just as it is for straight men. But, LaBarbera and his “pro-family” cohorts won’t ever let facts get in the way of a good scare tactic.

    Even if President Obama has, by and large, disappointed our community since his election with his foot-dragging on issues like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), it feels good to be acknowledged, even in a boiler-plate proclamation. It feels good to have the leader of your country acknowledge not just your existence, but your humanity — your extreme normalness.

    If that makes the religious right feel alienated, it really shouldn’t. It simply means that we finally have a commander-in-chief who can acknowledge the reality of the American family and see the humanity of everyone, even if politics prevents him from fully enacting a fairer agenda.

    A belated Happy Father’s Day, Mr. President.