BY JERRY PETERSON
Pending legislation in Michigan stands in stark contradiction to the stated goals of prioritizing the welfare and best interests of children. The proposed legislation states that placing a child in a safe, loving and supportive home is a paramount goal of the state. House Bill 4188 allows for agencies to object child placement for foster care based on religious or moral convictions.
If the goal of the state is to place children in loving and supportive homes, why are the laws looking to create more bureaucratic red tape and barriers to helping our children?
As the Executive Director of the Ruth Ellis Center, I represent the real people harmed by this legislation. They are the very children and youth the system claims to support! Yet, this legislation seeks to eliminate the consideration of “best interest of the child,” and it sets up barriers to accessing safe, loving and supportive homes for lesbian, gay, bi-attractional, transgender and questioning (LBGTQ) children and youth when an agency asserts a religious or moral objection.
Through this kind of legislative action, the state of Michigan is doing harm to a significant – though undocumented – number of children and youth, exposing them to multiple traumas and rejections simply because of who they are. This is an unacceptable practice in a taxpayer-funded system with the stated goal of looking out for the best interest of every child in its care.
I call out the hypocrisy of any system that turns a blind eye to discrimination, thereby institutionalizing harm, trauma and serial rejection to the very children and youth it has a moral and ethical obligation to take care of.
Legalizing discrimination against adults on the basis of personal moral or religious principles, and claiming that it does no harm to anyone else, is misleading and in contrast to the stated objectives of the child welfare system.
The Ruth Ellis Center operates a Michigan-licensed and contracted residential foster care Intensive Treatment Unit. Annually, The Center serves seven to 15 young people aged 13 to 17 who identify as LGBTQ. Due to the demand of alternative placement for LGBTQ youth, The Center is expanding from five to nine beds.
Many of these children and youth have been rejected by up to seven foster families, particularly for transgender and gender expressive youth – and the number of these children is on the rise.
LGBTQ couples are more likely to adopt children or youth with special needs or who are hard to place within the foster care system. There is no reason why those loving homes should be discriminated against, when the paramount goal of the state is to place children in loving and supportive homes.