Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fostering Families

Over our year end team building lunch (formerly known as holiday staff lunch and in ages past as Christmas staff lunch), foster parenting came up. T shared his involvement with The Martin Pollak Project, a child placement agency which serves more than 150 children and adolescents in the Washington DC and Central Maryland region. Since its founding close to 3 decades ago, the nonprofit has focused on girls and boys with the most intensive needs and challenging life circumstances. T told heart-breaking stories of children he encountered as well as heart-warming stories of lives changed.

P in contrast, vented her frustration over the DC foster care system and animus towards her case worker. Apparently, the gentleman took issue not much with the lead based paint on P's walls but with my colleague's dedication to her church. God forbid she forces a foster child to attend a service with her! P, who has been her niece's surrogate mother for a decade, has seen firsthand the overwhelming need for foster parents in the DC area and is eager to take in another child. Sadly, bureaucracy has denied some girl or boy a stable and loving home.

This is incredible considering the number of kids without families. P told us of a recent visit to her caseworker's office. Sprawled along the lobby were five children who did not have anyone to care for them. As the Freddie Mac Foundation reports there are more than half a million children in the foster care system across the United States and over 5,000 children in the Metropolitan Washington DC region.

The situation gets all the more ridiculous when lesbians and gays are banned from being adoptive or foster parents. As Mother Jones blogged:
... it's up to states to recruit and evaluate potential foster and adoptive parents, and most states turn away viable parents who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Currently three states—Florida, Mississippi and Utah—have outright bans on adoptive parents who are homosexual. Several other states have or are considering policies that would restrict LGBT couples and individuals from fostering or adopting a child. Florida forbids "homosexuals" from adopting; Mississippi bans "same-gender" couples, and Utah bans all unmarried couples.

Some states: California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington DC, actually protect potential adopters by prohibiting sexual orientation from being used as a basis to prevent a prospective applicant from being a adoptive or foster parent.

But throughout most of the country LGBT folks face all kinds of barriers to adoption. This, despite the fact that they are already raising children in significant numbers.

Furthermore, the Mother Jones post points out that lesbians and gays:

have many of the traits states specifically seek out in foster and adoptive parents: They are, on average, older, more educated and have more economic resources than other foster and adoptive parents.

If states enact laws that prevent such adoptions children currently placed with existing LGBT foster parents would be removed from those families. Nationally, an estimated 9,300 to 14,000 children would be displaced.

I understand that systems and processes are in place to ultimately serve and protect girls and boys. I also am aware that caseworkers are overworked and underpaid. However, when financially and emotionally stable individuals offer to take in and love a child who desperately needs a home and is denied for some inane reason, it just doesn't make sense.

Image from PoliGazette.

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