What comes to mind when you think of Texas?
Bluebonnets? Chicken fried steak and Dr. Pepper? Cowboy boots? Frenzied high school football fans? The Alamo? Our famous anti-littering slogan, “Don’t Mess with Texas?”
I love all these things, except for high school football. I’m kind of “meh” on that one. But, I love my state and most everything about living here. That is, except the proposed bill that would allow Texas adoption agencies to refuse parents on religious grounds.
Adoption is a subject that’s near to my heart. I have three kids, two of whom are adopted. People have all kinds of reasons for choosing adoption: infertility, convictions about the orphan crisis or kids in foster care, simply wanting to be a parent, or maybe a combination of things.
My view of adoption is simple: I wanted more children and couldn’t have them the “usual way.” There were children who needed a family; I had a family.
The actual adoption process was not simple. Screenings by social workers. Criminal background checks. Providing financial statements down to the penny that substantiated our ability to afford children. Lots of paperwork and lots of wickets to meet thresholds proving we were good, responsible people who would provide a stable and loving home.
At the time of our adoption, the paperwork and bureaucracy seemed never-ending, but today, six years later, we made it through and my two little boys have a stable and loving home. (Also, a loud and messy home where perhaps too many chicken nuggets are consumed, but that’s another story.)
We were rejected by the first adoption agency we applied to. Even though we had clean criminal histories and made decent money, we weren’t “committed to God” in the way that this agency needed us to be. We believe in God. We’re of the Christian faith. We don’t go to church very often, but we subscribe to Methodist(ish) beliefs. We’re not heathens, but even if we were, we’d still be good people and good parents.
We found an agency that didn’t want to pick apart our religious beliefs or examine our “commitment to God,” and the rest is history. I believe things worked out the way they were supposed to.
Texas’ House Bill 3859, also known as the “Freedom to Serve Children Act,” extends religious liberty within Texas’ child welfare system and allows them to decline services to individuals based on “the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”
So … if I run a private adoption agency (or a private entity that helps place foster children) and I have strongly held religious beliefs about people of the Jewish or Mormon faith, for example, being parents, then boom: no child for you, people who don’t believe the way I do.
It doesn’t matter if you have a valid home study, a clean criminal record, and are all-around stable and loving people. It doesn’t matter how many kids are lined up in need of dedicated parents by people who, you know, want to be parents.
If you don’t think like I think you should think, then Texas House Bill 3859 says I can tell you to go jump in a river.
If you’re an interfaith couple that wants to adopt, someone might have sincerely held beliefs against you. Single parent? Gay? Your ability to adopt could depend on who you talk to and the conviction of their beliefs.
And what about the children? Are their needs secondary in all this? It sure seems so.
The system is saturated with kids who need families — kids who need to be cared for and loved. Are we going to leave them in foster care or an orphanage because they can’t be placed with a family that meets exact, cookie-cutter specifications? There are a lot of people out there who would make wonderful parents. Are we going to deny a child a good home if that home has different ideas about God?
This isn’t about religion. Or politics. Or who you voted for. This is about children who need families being shuffled around in the system because we can’t accept others who don’t think the same way we do.
If you think House Bill 3859 sounds like an okay idea, I encourage you to read it in its entirety. If you still think it sounds like an okay idea, you might want to consider having a visit with child protective services or a discussion with a social worker who deals with kids in foster care. Ask someone what the inside of certain international orphanages look like, because guess what, these Texas agencies will have the power tell families no in cases of international adoption, too.
If you’re blowing this off because you don’t live in Texas, or think this sort of thing would never happen where you live … how sure are you about that?
I took our initial adoption agency rejection in stride and found an agency better suited for our family. But I wonder how many people don’t try again or seek out a plan B. I wonder how many people just give up. I wonder how many kids wait longer or are simply absorbed into the foster care system until they come of age because we’re more worried about our sincerely held beliefs than the children.
The vote on Texas’ House Bill 3859 is currently scheduled for Monday, May 15th. Come on, Texas, our kids deserve better than this.