On Monday, Texas lawmakers in the Senate passed a new bill by Rep. James Frank that allows publicly funded foster care and adoption agencies in Texas the right to refuse to place children with non-Christian, unmarried, or gay prospective parents because of religious objections. Privately adoption agencies like Inheritance Adoptions in Wichita Falls have been taking these kinds of issues into their criteria for open adoptions since they opened in 1993.
Leslie Howard is the Executive Director for Inheritance Adoptions and says that not all mothers are ready to be moms and not every woman gets to become a mother.
"So, it's just a basic synopsis of them as a couple. You never know what it's going to be that catches the girl's eye," says Howard as she flips through a photo book of two Christian perspective parents.
The birth mother looks through books to choose which family will raise her child. The birth mother can also choose whether she wishes to be a part of the child's life after the birth with regular visits or letters.
"They do want a family that is very active in church. They see the value in that, you know. They see the value in raising the child in a Christian home. They may not have been blessed by being raised in that situation, but they want that for their child," said Howard.
The Perez family of Wichita Falls was selected by the birth mother of what is now their child, Annabella, nearly six years ago. The Perez family said they sought out agencies, both private and public, before making a choice. Rafael Perez said he and his wife, Alissa, chose Inheritance because of its Christian background and connection.
"We believe in and support open adoption. We feel it is the best for the birth moms and the birth families and the adoptive child and the adoptive families, and we just really feel it's the way that God intended it to be, and we just feel it's a blessing," said Alissa Perez.
Though Inheritance won't be impacted by Rep. Franks bill, Howard said that the privately funded group supports efforts to keep faith-based child welfare service providers engaged and involved in doing the necessary work of adoptions and taking care of children's needs.
Texas Democrats criticized the bill during open debate claiming Texas should not fund public agencies that practice discrimination. Outside critics like the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and LGBT advocacy groups have spoken out against the legislation saying the bill shows priority for discrimination over the best interest of the child in a public welfare system.