Ten States Have Passed Discriminatory Adoption and Foster Care Laws that Harm Children

The content for this page was developed jointly by Family Equality and the Movement Advancement Project.

States with religious exemption laws that allow discrimination in the child welfare system
(Click the states in orange for more detail)

Across the country, states are passing harmful laws that allow adoption and foster care agencies to make decisions for children in their care based on religious beliefs rather than on the best interests of the child. These laws create a license to discriminate and allow agencies to flatly refuse to consider well-qualified prospective families for child placement – and to still receive government funding. Such laws hurt at-risk children in care – both those in need of a temporary placements and those awaiting placement with loving, forever families - who are denied the broadest possible pool of qualified foster and adoptive parents. They also hurt LGBTQ children and youth who are denied affirming, supportive care and families. 

There are over 427,000 children in foster care across the United States, and over half of the children waiting to be adopted wait more than two years for placement.  Each year, over 111,000 youth are waiting to be adopted – more than double the number actually placed in adoptive homes.  Worst of all, over 20,000 youth age out of foster care each year without being adopted, placing them at higher risk of incarceration, being trafficked, homelessness, and unemployment. 

Ten states have passed religious exemption laws permitting adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ children and youth in their care as well as LGBTQ and other potential parents.  These laws allow adoption agencies to keep kids in foster care or government homes rather than allowing them to be adopted by loving parents who don’t pass an agency’s religious test.