HHS Official Tells Youth Summit: We're Recruiting LGBTs to Adopt Kids

By Patrick Ryan | June 9, 2011 | 5:13 PM EDT

David Hansell, acting assistant secretary for the Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. (Photo: CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) - David Hansell, who runs the federal government’s Administration for Children and Families, told a group of high school students at the U.S. Department of Education’s “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT)” youth summit on Tuesday that the Obama administration is recruiting “LGBT parents” to adopt children.

“[O]f course, we’re also trying to recruit more foster and adoptive parents who are lesbian and gay,” Hansell said in a general session of the summit held at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C. (As CNSNews.com previously reported, the Department of Education barred reporters from attending the summit’s breakout sessions, which were also held at the hotel.)

In the general session, Hansell, who is an acting assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), pointed to a program sponsored by his division of HHS that encourages LGBT people to adopt children.

“So LGBT individuals and families often contact us about adopting or fostering kids through a program that we run called Adopt Us Kids, which is aimed at finding adoptive homes for hard to place children,” said Hansell. “We are particularly interested in encouraging the involvement of LGBT parents. In fact, we need their involvement because right now there are 115,000 children in foster care ready and waiting to find permanent homes.”

AdoptUsKids says that its mission is “to raise public awareness about the need for foster and adoptive families for children in the public child welfare system; and to assist U.S. States, Territories and Tribes to recruit and retain foster and adoptive families and connect them with children.”

Hansell described the “striking stories about LGBT teens in foster care” and “their experiences with the system, both positive and negative.” The Administration of Children and Families (ACF), where Hansell works,  intends “to emphasize and increase the positive ones.”

The federally sponsored organization also says it “has developed a number of valuable resources to support the efforts of States, Tribes, and Territories in recruiting and retaining lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) foster and adoptive parents.” These materials are linked to a page on the organization’s Web site entitled, “Resources for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Foster and Adoptive Families”

At the Department of Education’s youth summit, the HHS's Hansell participated in a general session panel -- “Population Focus on LGBT Student Needs”— that was described on the summit’s agenda as a discussion of “the unique needs of specific populations among LGBT youth,” including the topics of “college-age youth, youth of color, transgender youth, and the role of  ‘straight allies’  in creating safe and supportive environments for these specific populations.”

In his talk, Hansell addressed the difficulties that sometimes confront “LGBT prospective parents” and the efforts the Obama administration is making to remove those difficulties.“Now when it comes to adoption, LGBT prospective parents sometimes have had a hard time with the foster care system,” said Hansell.“In a few states, that’s due to legal barriers against gay or same-sex couples adopting. But more often than that it’s due to agency cultures and the discomfort or ignorance of child welfare workers and agencies, and as a consequence of that, potential parents who are not heterosexual often seek to adopt from private agencies rather than from the public child-welfare system."

“Given the magnitude of the need of kids for permanent homes we can’t afford to let that happen,” Hansell told the government youth summit.

“Aside from the fact that it is just plain discriminatory, it makes no sense to deny willing capable families the opportunity to create permanent homes for kids who have endured terrible difficulty and desperately need love and security," he said. "All children deserve loving, safe and stable homes. All families who are capable of providing them should be encouraged and helped to do so, regardless of whether they have two moms or two dads.”

Hansell said the administration is working on many fronts—ranging from training social workers to making publications more “gay-friendly”— to make it easier for “LGBT families” to adopt children.

“So we are taking a number of actions that will lead to much more inclusiveness,” said Hansell, “including training social workers, consulting with LGBT groups, revising all of our publications to be more gay-friendly, funding LGBT foster and adoptive parent support groups and spreading the message about how we can move forward to promote and sustain progressive adoption and foster care policies for LGBT families.”

The summit, which was held on Monday and Tuesday, was described in a Department of Education press release as an event that would “bring together students, educators, administrators, and heads of federal and nonprofit agencies to provide information and seek solutions to these issues.” Both U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke at the summit.

Literature focused on teenagers, such as the magazine sex, etc. and an HHS sexual identity study on students from grades 9-12, was freely distributed to all attendees.

The Education Department blocked reporters from attending breakout sessions because, as Assistant Deputy Education Secretary Kevin Jennings told CNSNews: “(S)ome youth participants do not have permission to speak to the media and allowing media into sessions would have meant excluding them from this portion of the event, which we did not want to do.”

An Education Department spokeswoman also told CNSNews.com that it could not interview certain students with red stickers on their name tags because they were minors.

When CNSNews.com asked Hansell for an interview at the government youth summit, he said  he was not there to do media interviews.

Before joining HHS in 2009, Hansell worked in New York state government, and had previously worked with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

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