Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Social Services
State Board of Social Services
Minimum Standards for Licensed Private Child-Placing Agencies [22 VAC 40 ‑ 131]
Action Adopt new standards for licensed private child-placing agencies.
Stage Proposed
Comment Period Ended on 4/1/2011
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4/1/11  4:07 pm
Commenter: Alicia Joy M. Parowski

I strongly oppose several aspects of the proposed 22 VAC 40-131-170(B)

The proposed 22VAC40-131-170(B) states: “The licensee shall prohibit acts of discrimination based on race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, or family status to: (1) Delay or deny a child’s placement; or (2) Deny an individual the opportunity to apply to become a foster or adoptive parent.”  I write to convey opposition to several aspects of the proposed 22VAC40-131-170(B), which is part of the proposed Minimum Standards for Licensed Child Placing Agencies.

The first basis for my opposition is that respect for human life and the dignity of the human person is a central tenet of many faith-based adoption agencies, and the provision of adoption services is an important means by which the faith community to which the agency belongs pursues and promotes its core belief, any regulation forcing faith-based institutions to choose between violating their religious beliefs or not providing such services would constitute a substantial infringement on religious freedom. 

Second, "sexual orientation" and "family status" are manifested through words or actions, and sometimes those words or actions could conflict with the mission, beliefs, and practices of organizations with certain deeply held convictions and religious beliefs regarding the institution of marriage, the family unit, and human sexuality. Including “sexual orientation” and “family status” as types of "discrimination", rather than simply a way they distinguish their agency's action from public ones, could force some agencies into a choice of whether to follow their own missions or to adhere to the law.  Private faith-based adoption agencies would be forced to function as public agencies or cease their activity.   Several of the largest adoption agencies in the Commonwealth, Bethany Christian Services, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Richmond would be forced to choose between violating the tenets of their faith or closing their doors. Forcing this choice is unacceptable because it violates the freedom of conscience and diversity of viewpoint upon which our pluralistic society is based. 

My third reason for opposition is that the proposed regulation’s prohibition on discrimination on the basis of “religion” and “age” may create concerns for some private providers of adoption services.

With respect to “age,” adoption services are unique in that, unlike employment or other situations, adoption creates a lifelong parent-child relationship.  Drawing upon their experience, an adoption services provider might reasonably take age into consideration when determining the qualifications of adoptive parents. For example, a potential adoptive couple who are elderly, even if otherwise in good health, might create an unacceptable risk that the adopted child would be left parentless a second time before reaching adulthood.

While some faith-based agencies do not do so, a religious organization might also reasonably choose to provide services only to its own members or to those who share its core beliefs, rather than offering services to the general public.  Many different faith-based adoption agencies in the Commonwealth have specific target groups whom they serve in harmony with their faith, the society at large and public organizations.  Targeting a particular segment of the population to serve merely compliments the public programs already in place.  Having a focus in one's private adoption agency's target group is not discrimination, but rather one expression of pluralistic society.

In conclusion, private and faith-based agencies play a vital role in the fabric of our Commonwealth, and their right to carry out their mission in the services they provide must be respected and preserved.

For the reasons discussed above, I urge DSS to reject the proposed language of 22VAC40-131-170(B).

CommentID: 16696