Prevent Child Abuse WV Issues Statement Affirming Importance of Non-Discrimination Protections for Foster Care
Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia supports ALL families and children in West Virginia.
We are deeply concerned by the actions of the WV Legislature’s Joint Rule-Making Review Committee on Wednesday, which weaken anti-discrimination protections for youth in foster care and foster families seeking to provide care to our most vulnerable children.
There is NO place in our society for state sanctioned discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. This action jeopardizes the health and well-being of all children and youth who are involved with the child welfare system.
When families come into contact with Child Protective Services and the child welfare system, it is the responsibility of service providers to provide children with services and supports that promote their safety, permanency, and well-being. This includes placement in foster homes where children are safe, and feel safe, and their behavioral and physical health needs are met.
The action taken Wednesday has the potential to harm every child in foster care in West Virginia by undermining the well-being and safety needs of children and by compromising the ability to find permanent homes. When foster care agencies refuse to license all qualified, willing and able foster parents, it jeopardizes the placement and permanency of every child and youth in the state’s care. While this rule change would not necessarily ban any family explicitly from being a foster parent, it does create a significant barrier by removing non-discrimination protections and allowing agencies to discriminate against potential foster parents and the children they serve.
This change would disproportionately harm LGBTQ+ children and youth, who are overrepresented in foster care and experience worse outcomes compared to their peers including an increased risk of placement instability and an overuse of congregate care, which is already a huge problem in our state.
Refusing to serve children and families due to their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or privately held religious beliefs is unacceptable and is in direct conflict with child welfare’s mandate. States are provided with federal funding to carry out activities that promote child welfare’s central mission to protect children and help them grow up in safe, nurturing, permanent homes. Those tax dollars should not be used in a manner that is discriminatory.
Our state has an obligation to ensure that tax dollars are only provided to agencies that are fulfilling the mandate of child welfare for ALL children and youth, which can only be guaranteed through explicit non-discrimination policy – not a weakened anti-discrimination policy which allows state sanctioned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or religion.
Strongly enforced non-discrimination policies ensure that EVERY child and family is provided with the services and supports that advance their well-being. Advancing any agenda that is not intended to support the well-being of ALL children and families is dangerous.
Our families deserve much better.
Acknowledgement: Thank you to the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) for their research regarding the role of non-discrimination laws to promote well-being of children in the child welfare system, which we have echoed in our public statement opposing the legislature’s action. For more information and a matrix of state laws, regulations, and policies that protect youth in foster care from discrimination please see the following link:
ABOUT PREVENT CHILD ABUSE WEST VIRGINIA
Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia is a chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, a national leader in building awareness, providing education, and inspiring hope in everyone involved in the effort to keep children free from abuse and neglect.
Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia works to give children good beginnings by strengthening families and communities. This is done by implementing innovative strategies in the areas of: effective community prevention programs, public engagement, and sound public policy.
Click here to learn about the many partnerships we maintain to support our mission of helping West Virginia’s children grow and thrive in safe, stable, nurturing relationships, free from abuse and neglect.