Religious freedom and non-discrimination are complementary values, rooted in the fundamental principle that every one of us deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. When foster or adoption agencies receive federal funding, they agree to abide by federal non-discrimination laws. But an increasing number of faith-based agencies are citing religious freedom as an exemption from these laws and rejecting applicants that do not live, love or worship as they do.
This misinterpretation of religious freedom unnecessarily restricts the pool of potential families and forces children to remain in care longer than necessary. It’s foster youth that ultimately bear the burden.
What’s at Stake
Miracle Hill Ministries, an Evangelical child welfare provider that receives government funding, recently drew national attention for discriminating against qualified Jewish and Catholic foster care applicants. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently issued Miracle Hill a waiver to violate federal non-discrimination laws as an exercise of “religious freedom.” But they are far from the only provider that is using public funds to discriminate in this way. With over 400,000 youth in foster care nationwide, there is an urgent need for affirming social services and safe, supportive adoptive homes.
The Every Child Deserves a Family Act
Congress can ensure that no child faces discrimination during their time in foster care and that qualified prospective parents are not turned away simply because of who they are, what they believe, or who they love. The ECDF Act would prohibit discrimination by any federally funded child welfare agency on the basis of religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status.
The Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign
Interfaith Alliance stands with more than 500 child welfare, faith, civil rights and LGBTQ+ organizations as a part of the Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign, which seeks to end discrimination in foster care, adoption, and child welfare, and to promote affirming care for all foster youth.