Today, A Commitment to Families

Today, January 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court issued their opinion in Obergefell, et al. v. Hodges, et al., ultimately declaring that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. As leading child welfare organizations, we are elated that justice has prevailed and equality has overcome discrimination. Further, the court’s decision is symbolic of the commitment to strengthen families and better the lives of countless children, those who are already being raised by same sex parents, as well as the numerous children waiting in foster care for adoption.

Today’s action by the court signifies a vitally important step; this is just the first of many though that will need to be taken for us to arrive at a place in which we celebrate and embrace the richness of diversity, not simply tolerate it. In order for that to happen it will require each of us to think critically about adoption, foster care adoption and what it means to be family. We must engage in the critical dialogue and actions necessary to expand our consciousness and make certain that attitudes and behaviors are a true and genuine reflection of the changes in laws and policies.

As we work towards the deeper changes that need to occur within our societal consciousness, families will continue to need support and resources. Families will navigate the complexities of adoption and foster care adoption within contexts that may or may not transmit the court’s decision into behaviors that reflect the intent and the spirit of the law. Advocacy will also need to continue in many areas, because the equality that was gained through today’s decision runs a stark contrast to a law recently passed in Michigan which will allow adoption agencies to judge potentially qualified adoptive parents based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, under the guise of religious freedom. We must all recognize then that the work is far from being done and actively seek to expand the conversation and build solidarity in a manner that ensures the needed transformations occur.

For today though, we will pause and reflect on this profound moment, a moment which will join other powerful ones in the history of this country where we will always remember exactly where we were and what we were doing right as it occurred. We will sit in this moment, assuaged by the knowledge that today, children and families were made stronger.

As we consider our work moving forward, we are reminded of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

We will then make sure that the light of justice and equality that shines so brilliantly through this decision today will continue to guide us in our passion for ensuring that children receive the love that they need to thrive and that families have what they need to be strong. Every child deserves to be part of a strong family. And every family deserves the chance to be strong. Strong families build strong communities and strong communities make a better world for all of us.

April Dinwoodie is Chief Executive of the Donaldson Adoption Institute. As an adopted person, April is a fierce advocate for children and families that are part of the adoption and foster care constellation. Dinwoodie was trans-racially adopted and shares first hand experience regarding challenges within adoption and foster care. She created the specialized mentoring program “Adoptment.” She is also a co-founder and vice president of the board of Fostering Change for Children, a progressive non-profit that helps drive innovation within the child welfare system.

Nicole Dobbins is the executive director of Voice for Adoption. Since a turbulent and abrupt transition from foster care at the age of 18, she has dedicated her career to advocating for children and youth in need of permanent families. She works to improve outcomes in child welfare and to ensure no youth has to experience “aging-out” of foster care without a family to assist in the transition to adulthood. Nicole is also the board president of FosterClub, the national network for youth in foster care.

Carolina Bradpiece is the Executive Director of the North American Council on Adoptable Children. Founded in 1974 by adoptive parents, the North American Council on Adoptable Children is committed to meeting the needs of waiting children and the families who adopt them. NACAC has supported LGBT adoptive families in policy and practice for almost 20 years.

Christine James-Brown is president/CEO of the Child Welfare League of America, the nationally recognized standard-setter for child welfare services. Its members include hundreds of public and private child-serving agencies in all 50 states.