On Thursday, June 15, Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 3859 into law. This law allows faith-based child-welfare organizations to deny placements and services based on their religious beliefs. In practice, this could result in many families being turned away from adopting or fostering the more than 16,000 children in need of a home in the state of Texas. Similar laws have recently been passed in other states, including Michigan, Virginia, North Dakota and South Dakota.
For 40 years, Arms Wide Adoption Services (formerly Spaulding for Children) has specialized in connecting children in foster care, including those more difficult to place, such as older children, racially diverse children or siblings wishing to be adopted together, with a loving family. Arms Wide Adoption Services’ families are just as diverse as the children they place. Arms Wide Adoption Services welcomes any type of family – as long as they meet the state’s requirements. As a result of the organization’s efforts, more than 2,100 children have been successfully placed with permanent families.
“The state has many long-held rules and standards required of foster and adoptive families, which we agree with and adhere to,” said Vikki Finley, President and CEO of Arms Wide Adoption Services. “We want to ensure safe and loving homes for these children as much as anyone and will only place children with families we are confident will provide the happy life these kids deserve. However, from our decades of experience, we know there are many excellent parents who could be excluded from fostering or adopting because of this legislation, and we want them to know we welcome them here.”
With a state-wide foster care parent shortage crisis, the bill’s proponents suggest these protections will encourage religious organizations to take on more of the work of providing services and support, allowing them to set parameters based on their beliefs without concern of legal repercussions. Opponents counter that the broad and general terms of the bill would effectively allow agencies to prevent adoptions by anyone not sharing an organization’s particular religious views.
“We want to reassure any family looking to adopt that we remain an available and welcoming partner in their journey. With more than 6,000 children currently eligible for adoption and more than 1,000 aging out of the system each year without having the support system of a family, we feel it is critically important to open our doors to as many families interested in fostering or adopting as possible,” said Finley.