It’s almost too cruel to imagine. Child welfare agencies denying loving homes to foster children and turning away qualified parents – just because of their sexual orientation, religion or marital status. 

But that’s exactly what could happen under Senate Bill 352, which would give private child welfare agencies a license to use religion to discriminate against adoptive families that vulnerable children desperately need. 

There are more than 4,775 kids currently in the Arkansas child welfare system–and this legislation would make it harder for them to find both temporary and permanent, loving homes.

Senate Bill 352 would allow private religious organizations to discriminate against prospective parents, shrinking the pool of homes available. That means more children languishing in government care – needlessly denied the forever homes they desperately need.

Senate Bill 352 would also imperil religious freedom, allowing private organizations to discriminate against prospective parents because of their religion. In South Carolina, a foster care agency called Miracle Hill refused to serve Catholic and Jewish prospective parents and mentors because of their religion.

This kind of discrimination has no place in Arkansas – especially not when it would hurt vulnerable kids and prevent them from being placed in forever, loving homes.

That’s why leading voices on foster care and adoption policy, including the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of Social Workers, Voices for Adoption, and the North American Council on Adoptable Children have strongly opposed these bills.

In a joint-oped, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, the National Center on Adoption and Permanency, and the National Association of Social Workers wrote that “this is not an issue of religious freedom. It is about every child's right to have a safe, loving, permanent, and competent family--a right that the state Legislature has vowed to protect above all.”

We agree.

For the sake of Arkansas’ most vulnerable children, legislators should reject this mean-spirited and harmful proposal.