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Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
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10/4/11  4:44 pm
Commenter: Ed Burke

Please Do Not Try to Address One Group's Needs by Reducing/Eliminating Opportunities for Another

This is in response to the call for public comments regarding the proposed rules on child adoption being considered by the Department.  First, let me state that I have over 30 years of experience in the fields of child advocacy and out-of-family temporary and permanent arrangements (both here and in Canada), particularly as they involve infants and children with severe disabilities.  Up until very recently, it has been the belief in most places that such infants and children were virtually impossible to place in permanent homes.  Some states/provinces even went so far as to invent institutions only for "difficult to place" children, with deadly and disastrous results.  Such thinking has been undergoing much needed change over the past 30 years or so.  During this time, we have (thankfully) realized that the real issue is not whether children who present all kinds of developmental or behavioral challenges can or even should be provided with permanent homes, the real issue is what does it take to establish and support such arrangements, so that every child has access to a "real home."

A major characteristic of child care systems that have been successful in approaching this "zero reject" goal in permanent child placement has been the availability of a wide variety and number of potential service providers in a given placement agency's jurisdiction.  Within the context of such multi-option resources, the agency responsible for the placement can "shop" in attempting to meet the needs of a given child.  That is, instead of being told by one or two relatively large provider agencies that, "This is what we provide: period," the responsible agency can issue "minimum expectations" centered on a child's individual's needs and then ask what four or six or eight agencies might be able to propose, and then negotiate with the two or three "closest fits," to determine who will actually be given the contract.

Key to the success of these more dynamic, individualized, and responsive approaches to child placement is the existence of many service options out there in the communities served.  Unfortunately, in the name of promoting one social good (i.e., "anti-discrimination") in the proposed regulations, the Department risks providing far fewer options for child placement, resulting in a return to the historical dearth of placements for infants and children with complex needs (thus promoting a likely return to the institutionalization of children from birth) and a lack of actual authority in being able to create any competition in the provider world.  In my view, the price of this expected social good (less discrimination) is too high if we attach it to the opportunity for completely innocent infants and children with severe disabilities to live in real community homes with real families versus institutions.  It makes no sense to effectively halt the long-awaited beginnings of hope and progress for one historically devalued group (people with severe disabilities) in order to experiment with a possible vehicle that might (or might not) lessen the devaluation of another group (people with atypical sexual preferences).  Therefore, I would respectfully recommend that the proposed regulations regarding what will result in the de facto exclusion of certain potential service providers based on their religious/spiritual beliefs, be withdrawn.  Thank you.


CommentID: 19271