Should Religion Be A Factor For Adopting A Child?

Prospective Parents Fighting Back Against Religious Requirements for adoption.

Adoption is a complicated process. It can take years and involve a multitude of tests, references, and forms. Of all the requirements, one is becoming more controversial, religion. Applicants are asked to list their faith and amount of participation in their local religious center. Some states, like New York, allow birth parents to reject prospective parents based on their religion.

Agencies claim the need to reject applicants based on religion is because the children will not be raised in a manner approved by the birth parents. Religion seems like an odd factor to single out. Most birth parents do not ask about the political affiliation of a parent. Nor is there any law that requires it. It also increases the likelihood that a child will not be placed and have to stay in a foster care system. There are many denominations and variations of popular religions. It could become increasingly difficult to find any family that fits the specific religion of the birth parents. Even if the adoptive parents have the same faith, they may choose to worship it differently by following or ignoring various religious dogma. Therefore, the religious question is either extremely limiting or provides a purely symbolic standard.

Unless there is a contract stipulating otherwise with the birth parents, a child may be converted to a religion when officially adopted. Adoption agencies are recommending consulting with older children before conversion. There are countless examples of children raised in households with a particular religion who rejected that religion or changed their belief system. Parents have the responsibility to establish life lessons and moral codes to their children. Some parents choose to do this in the form of religious instruction. If an adoptive couple is willing to provide a loving and supportive family, does the spiritual foundation particularly matter?

Adoption agencies associated with religious charities have been known to reject adoptive parents not only if they don’t practice a particular faith, but if they violate any rules of that religion. For example, some Catholic agencies will not allow children to go to parents that have previously been divorced. Some Christian agencies will not allow gay couples to adopt. This creates a problematic situation where parents might be the right fit in every way but their religious affiliation.

Adoption agencies get massive amounts of discretion by governments in determining their rules for parents. The only way this could be changed is if a court ruled that this religious freedom violated discrimination laws or a legislative body created rules banning religion from consideration. Neither of these seems likely in the immediate future.

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