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Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act



 

Protecting religious adoption groups

During the congressional recess in Washington D.C., as campaigns continue to ramp up, an important proposed amendment has been labeled as discriminatory by some and overlooked by most. The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (H.R. 1881) is a key addition to the FY 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill because it affects both the state of our adoption service providers and the foster care system.

H.R. 1881 was introduced in light of the overwhelming number of child welfare providers who are facing lawsuits or being forced to shut down because they operate their organizations in line with their firmly held religious beliefs. Recently, several states have passed or introduced laws that threaten faith-based child welfare providers unless they compromise some of their moral or religious convictions, namely by requiring religious organizations to place children with same-sex couples.

The proposed legislation does not prevent anyone from becoming a foster or adoptive parent. Rather than limiting the number of homes available to children, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act will protect organizations by allowing them to practice their services in accordance with their faiths.

Some may argue that more children would be able to be placed in homes if religious organizations were forced to place children with same-sex couples. Although this might appear true in principle, state governments have already attempted to force the hand of religious organizations like Catholic Charities; the result is that such organizations have made the difficult decision to close their doors rather than waver in their commitment to their moral convictions. The net result is fewer adoptions, not more.

The question of forcing organizations to facilitate placements into same-sex households has already been asked — and the resounding answer from religious organizations is that they will not be bullied by the government into compromising their consciences.

There are many secular organizations that readily place children with same-sex couples, single parents, and heterosexual couples. Closing religious providers necessarily forces foster parents currently working with those organizations to either work with a secular organization or to end their service as foster parents. H.R. 1881 would allow religious organizations to place children in homes that align with their values, and would penalize states who choose to punish such providers. Contrary to the common argument against protecting religious convictions, this bill would actually increase the number of children who are placed into loving homes, which is an increasingly pressing necessity.

The ongoing opioid epidemic means that homes for foster children are needed now more than ever. According to a recent federal study, substance abuse among parents has led to rapidly rising foster care caseloads. This trend is a reversal of a formerly downward trend of the number of children in foster care, and, as a result, child welfare providers are overwhelmed by the increasing number of children into their system. Forcing agencies who are placing children in need into good homes to choose between violating their morals or shutting down is not going to help alleviate the suffering of children entering into the foster care system.

Now is not the time to take action against religious child welfare providers; it is time to protect them. Forcing them to pay immense legal fees or close their doors would be counterproductive to finding homes for the nearly half a million children in foster care in America. There has been rightful outrage over the condition of migrant children being warehoused at the border, and over the abuse of minors within the Catholic Church. America is not indifferent towards the suffering of her children. However, when we, as a nation, allow partisan politics to rule, we neglect to see the big picture; the proposed Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act is a solution to partisanship that protects both the religious beliefs and the interests of children up for adoption.

Maggie Dever is a senior studying in the Program of Liberal Studies and pursuing minors in business-economics and theology. You can reach her at mdever@nd.edu.

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