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Lambda Legal responds to discriminatory Texas foster care bill

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House Bill 3859 (HB 3859) passed the Texas House of Representatives today. HB 3859 allows the state foster care system to invoke the religious beliefs of the state’s child placement agencies, including those funded by federal government, when placing children in foster or adoptive care.

This also means that if the bill is passed into law, the state would not sanction or revoke licenses when agencies discriminate against LGBT youth and families according to Lambda Legal.

Currey Cook, Counsel and Director, Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project, Lambda Legal, issued the following statement:

“All children and families served by the Texas child welfare system deserve to be treated fairly and with dignity. HB 3859 does exactly the opposite. HB 3859 gives special permission to religiously-affiliated government-funded child welfare agencies to discriminate even above the best interests of the child.

“HB 3859 is a wholesale rejection of LGBT people as foster and adoptive parents and it says to LGBTQ kids in the child welfare system; ‘there is something wrong with you’. Children in state care deserve our best efforts to protect and prioritize them – including LGBTQ kids and kids from diverse religious backgrounds.

"Those agencies that won't commit to putting children's needs first, and to nondiscrimination as a core promise to all children, must not be allowed to operate as agents of the government.

"There is no right to be a government contractor—agencies must adhere to standards of care set by licensing boards and professional governing bodies in order to provide services.

“In addition, this discriminatory bill purports to ‘solve’ this issue of those children and prospective parents denied placement and participation for so-called religious reasons through the creation of a separate foster care system.

"Relegating LGBTQ kids and prospective parents, as well as kids and parents of different faiths, to a second-class system serves only to exacerbate the stigma of HB 3859 and cost Texas taxpayers money by creating an unnecessary and duplicative system.

“States are legally obligated to ensure the safety, permanency and well-being of children in their care. Every action they take should promote these objectives and be in a child’s best interests.

"A system that privileges religious belief above that essential obligation is cruel, harmful, discriminatory and explicitly counter to professional standards. The Texas Senate needs to reject this dangerous bill.”

The bill now goes to the Texas State Senate.

Lambda Legal asks any youth or adults who have experienced discrimination in Texas’s child welfare system to call our Help Desk at 212.809.8585 or complete this online form HERE.

Read more about Lambda Legal’s work with children in out-of-home care HERE.