Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Genuine Good

This bit of news caught me pleasantly surprised.

One of the country’s largest adoption and foster care agencies, Bethany Christian Services, announced on Monday that it would begin providing services to L.G.B.T.Q. parents nationwide effective immediately, a major inflection point in the fraught battle over many faith-based agencies’ longstanding opposition to working with same-sex couples.

Bethany, a Michigan-based evangelical organization, announced the change in an email to about 1,500 staff members that was signed by Chris Palusky, the organization’s president and chief executive. “We will now offer services with the love and compassion of Jesus to the many types of families who exist in our world today,” Mr. Palusky wrote. “We’re taking an ‘all hands on deck’ approach where all are welcome.”

The announcement is a significant departure for the 77-year-old organization, which is the largest Protestant adoption and foster agency in the United States. Bethany facilitated 3,406 foster placements and 1,123 adoptions in 2019, and has offices in 32 states. (The organization also works in refugee placement, and offers other services related to child and family welfare.) Previously, openly gay prospective foster and adoptive parents in most states were referred to other agencies.

The decision comes amid a high-stakes cultural and legal battle that features questions about sexuality, religious freedom, parenthood, family structure and theology.

Adoption is a potent issue in both conservative Christian and gay communities. Faith-based agencies play a substantial role in placing children in new families. Meanwhile, more than 20 percent of same-sex couples with children have an adopted child, compared to 3 percent of straight couples, according to a 2016 report from the Williams Institute at U.C.L.A. School of Law. Gay couples are also significantly likelier to have a foster child.

“To use a Christian term, this is good news,” said Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, a fellow with the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress. “For too long the public witness of Christianity has been anti-this or anti-that,” he added. “Today the focus is on serving children in need.”

The old tropes that the evangelicals have trotted out against gay adoption usually amount to accusations of recruiting vulnerable children to “turn them gay” or use them as targets for pedophilia. Those are wrapped in ignorance and bigotry, and the number of children who have found safe and stable homes in same-sex married families overwhelmingly disproves them. And the number of children who need to be taken in is ever growing. Shutting out parents who happen to have matching genitalia is a mean and irrelevant barrier for kids in genuinely stark situations.

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