Growing up in a conservative, Catholic family in the Detroit area during the
60s, there were certain things that I assumed would happen in my life: I'd
get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, and, eventually, have
grandkids. We'd all enjoy the family gatherings that my siblings and I
experienced as we grew up, and life would be more or less what I planned.
But for anyone who has gone through the "growing up" process, they know that
life is often not what we plan. I did get the job, buy a house, get married,
and have a son. For me and my wife, Jan, he has been the greatest blessing
in our lives. And, now that he's grown, he's provided us with the
grandchildren that we always dreamed of having.
There is a slight twist to my story, though. My son, Lee, is gay. He and his
partner of 10 years, David, adopted their two children -- siblings -- through
the foster care system. The adoption process for them, as it is for many
families seeking to adopt, was challenging, but it worked, and now we enjoy
the family that I always envisioned. The day the adoption was finalized we
went to the courthouse along with family members and friends to stand in
solidarity and witness their adoption into the family. After some paperwork
was signed, we went before the judge who remarked, "This is about not only
an adoption but validation of the family support system that is currently
surrounding these children."
However, for too many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people
who want to open their homes and lives to the estimated 500,000 children in
the U.S. foster care system cannot realize this dream, because of unfair
state laws that ban LGBT people -- regardless of how qualified they are to be
parents -- from adoption and foster care. This current patchwork of
discriminatory state laws does a disservice to children in desperate need by
denying them access to permanent, safe and loving homes.
In our situation my
son and his partner were lucky. They were in one of the few states with laws
that permitted them to foster and later adopt our grandchildren. But three
states have explicit bans prohibiting all LGBT people from adopting
children, while another seven states do not permit same-sex couples to
jointly adopt. Thirty-four additional states are unclear about whether
same-sex couples may jointly adopt, resulting in discriminatory practices.
These categorical exclusions based on sexual orientation, gender identity or
marital status deprive approximately 72 percent of the children waiting in
foster care of the opportunity to access stable permanent homes.
And the stakes are high. Approximately 25,000 youth "age out" of the foster
care system each year. Research shows that these youth are at a high risk
for poverty, homelessness, incarceration, early parenthood, and substance
abuse. This could have been the case with my grandchildren, had they not
been adopted by my son and his partner. There is a solution for this truly
unfair situation. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act (ECDF) is a federal
bill that would increase the number of qualified individuals eligible to
become adoptive or foster parents by restricting federal funding for states
employing discriminatory practices in adoption and foster care placements
based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.
This child welfare bill that promotes the best interests of the children in
the foster care system by increasing their access to the more than two
million additional LGBT people who would consider serving as foster or
adoptive parents but for existing state laws prohibiting them from doing so.
This legislation is based on over 30 years of sound scientific research and
common sense. Over a dozen medical, legal, academic and professional
organizations have stated their support for the ability of qualified LGBT
and unmarried couples to foster and adopt, including the American Academy of
Pediatrics, the American medical Association, and the National Adoption
Center. They know that today, approximately one million LGBT parents are
already raising about two million children in the U.S., and that these
children are living happy lives in homes where they are loved.
When I think about the amazing family that I have today and how it is very
much the fulfillment of what I hoped for many years ago, I feel blessed and
lucky that my son and his partner live in a state where our grandchildren
were able to be adopted and brought into our lives.. Support for this bill
through Congress and in our families could bring that same fulfillment to
other families. No child should be denied a home, and no grandparent should
be denied the joy of grandchildren. Now, there¹s something we can do about