A great deal of attention has been placed on the recent constitutional marriage amendments in California, Arizona, and Florida. And the losses of all three certainly do represent an enormous setback to the rights of LGBT individuals. Seemingly lost in the shuffle of these amendments, however, was Initiative 1 in Arkansas. This constitutional amendment proposed making it illegal for anyone cohabitating outside of a valid marriage to adopt or provide foster care to minors. Sadly, the amendment passed by a wide margin of 14 points.
There are many ramifications from the passage of this amendment. Obviously, it will prevent any same-sex couples from adopting or providing foster care. Outside of the LGBT movement, however, it also prevents any unmarried heterosexual couples from adopting or providing foster care.
It is unsettling, to say the least, that the population of Arkansas has taken it upon themselves to decide, based solely on demographic information, who is worthy to care for a child.
Even more disturbing, however, is the fact that this amendment deprives myriad children from having stable, loving homes with same-sex or unmarried heterosexual couples. It is estimated that, at any given time, there are 3700 children in the foster system. Do the residents of Arkansas truly believe that these children are better off staying in the foster care system?
Countless research has shown that children who are in and remain in the foster care system are more at risk for dropping out of school, becoming substance abusers, and aging out into dire situations, including homelessness.
In August, Arkansas’ Department of Human Services was forced to investigate the deaths of four children in foster care homes. In light of these recent events, it’s troubling that Arkansas would move away from providing children in foster care with stable and loving foster and adoptive parents, simply based on demographics.
While the passage of this amendment may have occurred outside of the national spotlight, the plight of the children in the Arkansas foster care system, as well as the repercussions of this amendment for the LGBT movement, must be moved into the forefront.
-- Seth Maid and Nicole Stonestreet, ENC Interns