Texas Senate Passes Damaging Child Welfare Bill: Lambda Legal Urges Governor to Veto

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May 22, 2017

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

The Texas Senate today passed HB 3859, the discriminatory bill that would allow many child placement agencies in the state foster care system – including agencies receiving state and federal funding – to prioritize their religious beliefs above the needs of children in care.

The bill would prevent the state from sanctioning or revoking the licenses of religiously affiliated child-placement agencies that discriminate against LGBT youth and families and people of different faiths, including foster and adoptive parents. The bill is squarely at odds with federal law and professional standards set out by The Child Welfare League of America and others. The bill now goes to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for his signature.

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

"Sadly, the Texas Senate has continued the assault on LGBT youth in the state child welfare system, and on LGBT families -- including prospective foster and adoptive parents -- that their colleagues in the House started with HB 3859. The ominously-titled “Freedom to Serve Children” bill serves up LGBT kids, and those perceived to be LGBT, to be rejected and demeaned. It sends a clear message to prospective LGBT foster or adoptive parents that they may be turned away.

"Texas is currently confronting its failure to provide permanent homes for children in foster care. This bill does the exact opposite of what is needed now by endorsing discrimination over more loving and nurturing homes that Texas children desperately need and deserve. 

"HB 3859 allows religiously-affiliated child welfare agencies to use taxpayer dollars to discriminate. It blesses 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 based on science in order to provide services.

“States are legally obligated to ensure the safety, permanency and well-being of all children in their care. Every action they take should promote these objectives and be in a child’s best interests. A state system that privileges religious belief above that essential priority is cruel, harmful, discriminatory and explicitly counter to professional standards. Governor Abbott needs to veto this dangerous bill.”

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.


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