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  2:37 pm
Commenter: Marielle Gomez-Kaifer

Permanency as the Best-Interests Consideration for Children

All too often we look to safeguard the rights of the unborn, while failing to perceive what may block permanency and wellbeing for children who are already here. The present incarnation of the Virginia Administrative Code is ill-conceived as being in the best interests of children because it limits fostering and adopting to married heterosexuals. The best interests for children in the foster care system can best be summed up as having a loving, permanent home. Loving homes are not cookie-cutter products. They can be single parent homes (surely some of the posters here do not intend to suggest that divorced or widowed parents are unfit to parent their biological children?) and they can even be homes in which parents are not heterosexual, or are areligious or atheist. Good loving people do not come in only two forms- heterosexual, religious, married man or woman. They come in many forms.

The idea that the modifications proposed in Section IV-B curtail faith-based organizations from placing children for adoption is absurd. The proposed changes in fact only prevent them from discrimination in their homestudy and placement process. If a prospective adopter or adoptive family meets all other criteria but is of a different faith from the child in care, would that be a reason to bar adoption? By this I mean, should should a Catholic child welfare agency be permitted to decline a qualified and otherwise ideal adoptive family because they are Baptist, rather than Catholic? So too, if all other indicators are that a family may be an excellent match for a child, do prospective adopters who are gay, or atheist, or of mixed racial background deserve to have their chance to a loving home for children, who desperately need and deserve that permanency, denied? Of course not!

I am still mindful of a gay adoption that was certified in Florida, after a federal appellate battle (which Florida, seeking to overturn the judgement of adoption, ultimately lost). An attorney by the name of Wayne LaRue Smith had fostered more than 30 children in his home, but one child desperately wanted to be adopted. He was developmentally disabled and biracial. Mr. Smith promised the child he would adopt him. Mr. Smith did. The battle that ensued cost Mr. Smith hundreds of thousands of dollars and the State of Florida ultimately lost. Said Mr. Smith, to the New York Times, :

''Nobody wants to adopt a 6-year-old with developmental problems who is biracial,'' he said, bitterness tinged with hope.

He paused, because he had been too sweeping.


''I do,'' he said.

That article was published in 2003. The ban on gay adoption in Florida was finally lifted in 2010. Seeking to enforce that ban in a number of high profile cases has cost the State of Florida hundreds of thousands of dollars that would have been far better spent on other aspects of social service. 

But these proposed changes, while everyone assumes are to do with homosexuality, actually are about equality and equal protection, especially equal protection for children, who have a right to the best homes that are available, irrespective of whether those homes meet an agency's religious beliefs or racial makeup or preference for married couples over single, stable parents. This isn't an issue of placing children in homes that mirror an agency's founding faith or creed. It's about placing children in stable and loving homes that want to offer these children what they need to thrive. If as a State, we remove children from their parents, or if their parents surrender them or are deceased, we are honor bound to provide these children with loving homes and permanency in a timely fashion and not wait for some idealized home that for many children will never materialize.


CommentID: 16648