The Controversy Over Custody


The Controversy Over Custody

Modified excerpt from pages 96-99 of Jesus in the Courtroom by John W. Mauck

When Bethany Christian Services’ announced their plans to compromise with the state of Michigan by not discriminating against LGBT couples who wanted to adopt and foster children through their organization, many Christians responded with conflicting views. Some expressed anger at the government’s infringement on religious liberty, while others decried BCS for “giving in.” But in this controversy over custody, what many are forgetting are the overall best interests of the child.

A child’s biological parents are, generally speaking, best qualified and most motivated to raise their child well. Sadly, fallen humanity—whether through divorce, abandonment, abuse, illness, or death—often puts children in the hands of the government. Even though the world of child social care and placement abounds with dedicated and godly workers, the “best interest of the child” standard in foster care, adoption, and custodial cases has been weakened and is under assault.

Consider Erin, age one month, given up at birth by her single mother to Children Services for adoption. Two childless couples want to give Erin a loving home. Ben and Karen, both age thirty-one and married for nine years, are under final consideration, along with Mindy and Bill, age fifty-three and fifty-four, married for twenty years. Both wives have committed to be stay-at-home mothers, while both husbands have stable employment and, in the opinion of investigating social workers, would be great fathers. Other parental qualifications being equal, which couple will Child Services or the appropriate adoption agency choose? The answer is obvious to anyone who has experience in the field. (For nine years I was on the Board of Directors of a large child and family services organization.)

Erin deserves young parents who are more likely to have the energy to interact with her, to be in good health, and to still be alive and active during her childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. In the best interest of Erin, Ben and Karen will be selected.

“Discrimination!” some cry. “Is not the only substantive difference between the couples age? And is not age discrimination illegal?” Well, yes. Placement with Ben and Karen is “discrimination,” but the best interest of little Erin is the higher legal priority over the right of Mindy and Bill to “equal treatment,” non-discrimination under the law.

Now consider Kathy, age thirty days and also given up for adoption. Sara and Jill, both age twenty-eight, are in a stable same-sex relationship. They married soon after the Supreme Court in Obergefell required the state to sanction such unions. Mindy and Bill are back, still hoping to adopt. Is it in Kathy’s best interest to be adopted by two lesbians? Certainly, the age factor weighs in favor and Sara and Jill.

However, a census-based study of 20 percent of the entire Canadian population concluded:

Children living with gay and lesbian families in 2006 were about 65 percent as likely to graduate compared to children living in opposite sex marriage families. . . . A breakdown of performance by the sex of the child shows a more dramatic result. Daughters of gay parents are only 15 percent as likely to graduate high school while daughters of lesbian parents are 45 percent as likely to graduate.

Another major study shows that adults who were raised by a lesbian mother had, as they were growing up, greater instances of sexual abuse. As adults, they also were more prone to suicidal thoughts, drug use, unemployment, and other key measures of a dysfunctional life. (I commend to you the interactive graphics at familystructurestudies.com.)

So should the child placement officials be able to weigh risks of the age of Mindy and Bill against the risks of the sexuality of Sara and Jill to determine the best interest for Kathy’s life? If the child’s best interest is our goal, the certainly!

Citizen disciples should acknowledge that in our fallen world, factors such as age, income, health, or addictions will sometimes point away from heterosexual adopters and in favor of same-sex couples. Gay and lesbian activists should acknowledge that gay parenting poses many special risks to children, and that those risks should be carefully weighed in any adoption, custody, or foster care determination.

However, in Illinois, and probably in other “progressive” states and nations, the best interest of the child has been overridden by political correctness. When Illinois legalized civil unions in 2011, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the State’s highest elected law enforcement official, sent a ukase to child placement agencies throughout Illinois, informing them that they were places of public accommodation and that they violated the law if they discriminated based on the marital status of a foster, adoptive, or custodial parent. Violators would face legal penalties. A warning like that forced immediate compliance because a charge of “unlawful discrimination” from the State could put an agency out of business.

For these and similar reasons, Catholic Charities exited all child social care throughout Illinois. All the other secular and purportedly faith-based agencies refused to challenge what I consider legalized and officially sanctioned child endangerment. No one went to court to assert that Kathy and other children should be placed according to their best interest and not to fall victim to the “political correctness” du jour. Thousands of Illinois children—and only God knows how many across the world—are exposed to greater and unnecessary risks throughout childhood because some laws mandate subordination of their best interests by ignorance, even willful ignorance, of the risks that gay parenting or single parenting instead of traditional parenting poses.

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