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Children’s Rights, Faith Leaders Launch Interfaith Coalition to Fight Foster Care and Adoption Discrimination

Coalition will mobilize faith communities against a “license to discriminate”

Contact: Daniel Kessel, 646-216-3343, dkessel@childrensrights.org

NEW YORK – Amid reports that the Trump Administration is planning to allow foster care and adoption agencies nationwide to discriminate against prospective foster parents and children under the guise of “religious freedom,” Children’s Rights, a national organization advocating for foster children in federal court, has gathered faith leaders from around the country to form the Interfaith Coalition for Children’s Rights. The coalition will oppose legislation and policy changes that would enshrine a “license to discriminate” into law and ultimately deprive vulnerable children of safe, loving homes.

This year has seen several states introduce legislation that attempted to allow taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ, Catholic, and Jewish individuals and families, and others who do not pass a religious litmus test. At the federal level, earlier this year the Trump Administration granted a waiver allowing South Carolina provider Miracle Hill to discriminate against prospective foster and adoptive parents.

Founding members of the Interfaith Coalition come from diverse faith organizations and activist communities, including Children’s Rights, Union Theological Seminary, ADL (Anti-Defamation League), and NYU’s Wagner School.

“This is about children, and discrimination has no place when it comes to helping vulnerable kids,” said Sandy Santana, Executive Director of Children’s Rights. “We’re looking forward to working more closely with the Interfaith Coalition to ensure that as many safe, loving homes as possible are available to children waiting for a forever home.”

“Faith-based foster care agencies do important work to connect children to loving families – and we commend those who serve all in need,” said the Hon. Ruth Messinger, social justice activist and member of the Interfaith Coalition. “But policymakers must not allow providers to decide who is a suitable foster parent based on anything other than their ability to care for a child.”

“Our faith traditions teach us to treat everyone, especially those in need, with the dignity and respect we want for ourselves,” said Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, President of Union Theological Seminary. “That’s why the Interfaith Coalition was formed: to focus on children in foster care.”

“America’s religious freedom protections are a shield for faith, not a sword to harm others. But sadly, government officials are sanctioning the use of religion against ready, willing, and able foster and adoptive parents to the detriment of our nation’s most needy children,” said Rabbi David Sandmel, Director of Interreligious Engagement at ADL.

“Standing together, the faith community will show that living up to our values means taking care of all who depend on us,” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, Visiting Scholar at The Wagner School of New York University.

Currently, ten states allow licensed foster care providers to discriminate in the name of religious beliefs. Members of the Interfaith Coalition for Children’s Rights will participate in amicus briefs, mobilize grassroots advocates, and take other actions against discriminatory child welfare policies.

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