Family Denied Adoption due to lack of Religion in their Household
Not the first instance of discrimination within the adoption process in
Alaina Browning is very familiar with the adoption process and housing children coming from often difficult and complex situations. She and her husband have already been foster parents and were looking for an addition to the family - a sibling for their 5-year-old daughter.
The only problem they ran into is the fact that the Brownings aren’t religious. Which for some reason is a blockade in the adoption process within Alabama (the state where Alaina lives and where she and her husband adopt from).
Alaina was very upfront with the adoption agency even asking if being “secular” would automatically disqualify her as being an adoptive parent. The agency responded “define secular,” and her response was honest: “Atheist/Agnostic.”
“I am sorry. We could not work with you. We are not specific about one’s faith but the biological families that we work with do request that our adoptive families have a spiritual life.”
“I don’t know of an agency in Alabama who would accept your application. Perhaps an adoption facilitator out of state. I do not know of one however.”
The response that was given by the agency
Crushed, Alaina replied somberly: “Okay. Thank you.”
“I just thought that nothing we do - no certifications or qualifications that we can do - will ever be enough if this is what they look at. If they think that we’re somehow immoral just for a belief system or lack thereof.”
Alaina explained her thoughts following the responses
Susan Wyatt, who sent the message and manages the agency did confirm the agency does not work with non-religious parents looking for adoption.
“In the cases that we’ve found in 36 years, most of our mothers come to us asking that the adoptive families have a belief system. We’ve placed children with Jewish families. We did have an Indian family at one point. I don’t think that we’ve ever had a Muslim family.”
Susan Wyatt claims - the individual who sent the message to Alaina and runs the agency
Alaina claimed that she finds it hard to believe ALL mothers express a preference for a religious family even as she respects the wishes of all birth mothers. “Maybe she was trying to save me some heartbreak later on,” Browning said of Wyatt. “But I feel to turn people away just as you’re seeking information is a problem.”
The problem is that any form of discrimination during the adoption process is nothing new in Alabama. In 2017, Governor Kay Ivey signed a law allowing private adoption agencies to turn away adoptive parents for religious reasoning. The law even included opposition to same-sex marriages…
In response to Alaina’s perception that she has been discriminated against due to the lack of religion, Wyatt gave a very half-ass explanation:
“Well, I am the mother of two adopted children, and I believe that these children are gifts from God. I wouldn’t be a mother or a MeMe if it wasn’t for two women who carried our children to term and gave them to us as a gift. We’re not in charge of where these babies go. God is. And it’s the mother’s choice. And 99 percent of those families talk about faith.”
Alaina and her husband say they have reconsidered whether to adopt at all due to the ridiculous barriers currently blocking their path. She expressed her hope for agencies like Wyatt’s to become more open to those not fitting the ‘social norms’. Alaina said that anti-discrimination laws, specifically those concerning religion and its influence on the adoption process should be changed. Her backing is that even the slightest inconvenience (not allowing individuals to adopt based on religious preferences) can leave some children without a home.
Coming from a place of experience (a children’s librarian) Alaina saw children of all backgrounds facing challenges that even adults should have to face. She has used witnessing such things
In her work as a children’s librarian, Browning saw children from all backgrounds, facing challenges even adults should not have to confront. It was one of the things that motivated her to want to adopt.
“These kids still need homes. We may still pursue adoption, but the system needs to be reworked. There’s only so much that can be done when it’s the private sector, but this presents a barrier to getting, kids into happy, healthy homes.”