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  4:53 pm
Commenter: Andrew Brown, J.D.

Proposed LCPA Regulations

I oppose the broad scope of 22 VAC 40-131-170(B) because of the chilling effect it will have on adoptions in the Commonwealth of Virginia. While many of the comments to this proposed regulation have focused on the “sexual orientation” language, I am more concerned with the inclusion of “religion” in the standard.


The faith community has a long tradition of caring for orphaned and vulnerable children. In fact, many of this nation’s leading adoption and child welfare agencies are either church-sponsored or are based on a set of sincerely-held religious beliefs. These agencies provide services to families who share these beliefs, and are effective because of their ability to advocate on behalf of children in their communities.


As currently written, proposed regulation 22 VAC 40-131-170(B) would require faith-based agencies to provide services to applicants who do not share their religious beliefs and, in some cases, exhibit behaviors that are contrary to those beliefs. This is a clear violation of principles of religious freedom.


The laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia currently allow adoption by both married couples and unmarried individuals (§63.2-1225). For obvious and logical reasons, the law prohibits adoption by unmarried couples (heterosexual and homosexual). However, there is no legal prohibition on adoption by homosexual individuals, and there are many agencies in Virginia that provide these services.


This regulation, then, while couched in terms of equality would actually result in discrimination against agencies that profess a set of religious beliefs in connection with their mission of serving orphaned and vulnerable children. Recently, in both Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, Catholic Charities was forced to close their foster care and public adoption programs because of similar regulations. It is reasonable to expect that similar results will happen in Virginia if faith-based agencies are forced to compromise their beliefs in exchange for a license to operate. The end result will not be the advancement of “equality,” but fewer agencies that are able to help children.


The Commonwealth of Virginia currently has the highest number of children in the nation who age out of foster care without receiving a permanent placement. This is a statistic that should disturb us all – more children in Virginia than any other state spend their lives without ever knowing the love of family. How many more children will face a similar future if faith-based agencies are forced out of business?


Regardless of our beliefs on matters of religion and sexual orientation, we all share the same goal of seeing that children grow up in permanent, loving homes. Personally, I believe that this goal is advanced when there are more agencies working for children. Allow faith-based agencies to continue to do the incredible work that they do on behalf of children.   


I echo the National Council for Adoption’s position on the inclusion of a “conscience clause” that would allow faith-based agencies the choice of whether to work with applicants who do not share their religious or moral beliefs. This seems to be a logical compromise that is consistent with Virginia law.

CommentID: 16728