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Opinion: Bacon Should Have No Bearing on Becoming a Foster Parent
When it comes to foster parenting and adoption, agencies should focus on the applicants' ability to care for a child -- not their religion or sexual orientation. And certainly not whether or not they eat bacon.
Baltimore's Tashima Crudup, a practicing Muslim, was recently told by a private screening agency she was unfit to be a foster parent because she didn't allow pork in her home. The company, Contemporary Family Services of Baltimore, tells local station WJZ it wasn't the absence of pork per se, but her "inflexibility" on the issue.
According to The Baltimore Sun, Crudup contacted the ACLU, saying her application was denied based solely on her religious beliefs. Since most of us generally acknowledge that not serving pork chops to a child does not constitute abusive behavior, she is probably correct. (FYI, a representative for the Maryland Department of Human Resources tells The Sun that if Contemporary Family Services' decision about Crudup was based on her choice of food, then denying her application would be a violation of state law.)
If the decision was based on religion, that's a shame. Many states, including Maryland, have a shortage of foster parents. Placing a child with a good foster family can mean getting that child out of a terrible situation. Though temporary, foster care placements sometimes lead to adoptions, or even children being reunited with their families.
In The Sun, an ACLU attorney wonders if Contemporary Family Services "denies every vegetarian or Orthodox Jewish person a foster care license." I don't know about that, but there have been many reported cases of people being told they could not be foster parents for reasons seemingly unrelated to their parenting skills.
In England, there was the case of smokers being prohibited from becoming foster parents. This issue touches adoption as well -- the NRA had to go to court so that adoption agencies would be banned from asking parents about guns.
Sometimes it gets even more confusing. In many states, gay people are allowed to be foster parents, but can't adopt. In Arkansas, they can't do either. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee recently stated that he supports his home state's ban on same-sex couples adopting or becoming foster parents because "we should act in the best interest of the children."
How is leaving children in orphanages or severely troubled homes acting in their best interests? The arguments about "traditional families" being better for children have no basis in fact. "Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children: Research on the Family Life Cycle," a book that came out last year, shows that gay parents do not warp their kids.
But much like the spanking studies that suggest smacking your child's behind may not be the best form of discipline, no amount of research can convince someone who has already made up his or her mind. Huckabee and those who agree with him have made their decisions. They can say they are only interested in "protecting children," but in practice, the exact opposite is true.
Laws that restrict gay families from adopting or becoming foster parents are just as discriminatory as an agency that tells a woman she can't be a foster parent because she won't serve BLTs for lunch.
Whether or not someone belongs to the NRA, is a Muslim, is gay or is even a gay, Muslim NRA member -- has anything to do with one's ability to be a good parent. People who say otherwise are kidding themselves. Instead of focusing on ideological agendas, agencies and politicians should do everything in their power to ensure that foster children are placed in safe homes, and that families who want to adopt are prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.
Related: Opinion: Adoptive Mother Should Be Sent to the Gulag
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