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10/11/11  11:32 pm
Commenter: Sara Snowden, MSW

Comment regarding Equality for Foster/Adoptive Parents
 
Members of the State Board of Social Services,
 
I appeal to you to reconsider your decision regarding gay, lesbian, and bisexual resource parents. My request is based upon my professional perspective as a well-educated, dedicated public child welfare social work professional and social work educator (with 17 years of service to Virginia) and my personal perspective as an adoptive parent, a Christian, an active citizen and voter, and a person in a committed same-sex relationship of 15 years.  During my professional career, I have been extensively trained in assessing child safety; in Child Protective Services, I have removed numerous children  from physically, sexually, and emotionally abusive/neglectful situations that endangered their lives, health or safety- at the hands of heterosexual parents/caregivers.  I have helped to train foster/adoptive parents and counseled them on dealing with the impacts of trauma, grief, and loss that impact youth in our system.  My experiences, both personal and professional, have taught me that what truly matters to children and adolescents is not simply a "traditional" family but a family whose care incorporates empathy, acceptance, affection, appropriate boundaries, and safety.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Virginia's child welfare system has made great strides in recent years to adopt national best practices.  I respectfully ask that your decision-making be informed by extensive professional research and recommendations and guided by the experiences of other states that have permitted gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons to foster and adopt.  Please consider the following statements:
 
*American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (1999)-  "There is no evidence to suggest or support that parents with a gay, lesbian, or bisexual orientation are per se different from or deficient in parenting skills, child-centered concerns and parent-child attachments, when compared to parents with a heterosexual orientation. It has long been established that a homosexual orientation is not related to psychopathology, and there is no basis on which to assume that a parental homosexual orientation will increase likelihood of or induce a homosexual orientation in the child. Outcome studies of children raised by parents with a homosexual or bisexual orientation, when compared to heterosexual parents, show no greater degree of instability in the parental relationship or developmental dysfunction in children.  The AACAP opposes any discrimination based on sexual orientation against individuals in regard to their rights as custodial or adoptive parents as adopted by Council."
*American Academy of Pediatrics (2002)- "The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that a considerable body of professional literature provides evidence that children with parents who are homosexual can have the same advantages and the same expectations for health, adjustment, and development as can children whose parents are heterosexual."
*American Bar Association (1999)- ""RESOLVED, that the American Bar Association supports the enactment of laws and implementation of public policy that provide that sexual orientation shall not be a bar to adoption when the adoption is determined to be in the best interest of the child."
*American Psychiatric Association (2002)- "The American Psychiatric Association supports initiatives that allow same-sex couples to adopt and co-parent children and supports all the associated legal rights, benefits, and responsibilities which arise from such initiatives."; (1997)- Gay and lesbian couples and individuals should be allowed to become parents through adoption, fostering and new reproductive technologies, subject to the same type of screening used with heterosexual couples and individuals.
*American Psychological Association (2004)- "“WHEREAS Some jurisdictions prohibit gay and lesbian individuals and same-sex couples from adopting children, notwithstanding the great need for adoptive parents (Lofton v. Secretary, 2004); “WHEREAS There is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation: lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children (Patterson, 2000, 2004; Perrin, 2002; Tasker, 1999); “WHEREAS Research has shown that the adjustment, development and psychological well-being of children is unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish (Patterson, 2004; Perrin, 2002; Stacey & Biblarz, 2001);“THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED That the APA opposes any discrimination based on sexual orientation in matters of adoption, child custody and visitation, foster care and reproductive health services;”
*Child Welfare League of America (Standards of Excellence)- "Applicants should be assessed on the basis of their abilities to successfully parent a child needing family membership and not on their race, ethnicity or culture, income, age, marital status, religion, appearance, differing lifestyles, or sexual orientation." Further, applicants for adoption should be accepted "on the basis of an individual assessment of their capacity to understand and meet the needs of a particular available child at the point of adoption and in the future."
*National Adoption Center
(1998) - "Therefore, it is the policy of the National Adoption Center that no person should be denied consideration in the adoption process solely based on marital status, sexual orientation, lifestyle, disability, physical appearance, race, gender, age, religion and/or size of family."
*National Association of Social Workers (2002)- "Legislation legitimizing second-parent adoptions in same-sex households should be supported. Legislation seeking to restrict foster care and adoption by gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people should be vigorously opposed."
*North American Council on Adoptable Children (2002)- "Children should not be denied a permanent family because of the sexual orientation of potential parents. Everyone with the potential to successfully parent a child in foster care or adoption is entitled to fair and equal consideration."
 
 
(*Source: The Human Rights Campaign, 2011. Accessed from http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/professional-organizations-on-lgbt-parenting)
 
I urge you to consider the youth in Virginia’s foster care system (some of whom are also homosexual and bisexual) in need of stable, nurturing foster homes or seeking permanence with adoptive parents. Reputable national research supports the ability of gay, lesbian, and bisexual parents to meet these needs. I propose to you that based on their own experiences of grief, loss, rejection, and feelings of being different, homosexual/bisexual parents are uniquely prepared to provide empathy and support to youth in foster care. Screening and training processes are already in place to help Virginia’s foster care/adoption agencies determine which heterosexual parents are appropriate to provide care for our youth; the same standards can be applied to homosexual/bisexual applicants to determine appropriateness. 
 
In summary:
1.     The best interests of the child should be the sole factor in deciding whether a child should be placed with a prospective foster care or adoptive parent or parents.
 
2.     State-licensed child placing agencies should not be allowed to discriminate against children or prospective parents based on race, national origin, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation, disability and family status.
 
3.     The State Board of Social Services should restore to the final rules the protections against such discrimination included in the proposed rules.
 
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. cautioned that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I am hopeful that you will take a stand against discrimination and help Virginia’s child welfare system continue its progress towards national best practice standards. Thank you for your careful consideration of this issue.
CommentID: 20968