Texas' new adoption law, set to take effect Sept. 1, is back in the news — this time via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The Star-Telegram's 1,800-word piece is not terrible. Granted, it's not going to win any awards for fair and balanced journalism. But the paper makes at least a cursory attempt to reflect both sides.
Nonetheless, it seems clear which side the newspaper favors — the one featured in the lede and conclusion as the Star-Telegram focuses on this theme:
Some 20,000 Texas kids need homes. But will a new law turn families away?
Let's start at the top and see how long it takes the first scare quotes to appear:
Franklin and Amy Countryman dream of someday serving as foster parents to children who need homes — and possibly adopting a child or two.
But the Mansfield newlyweds fear a new Texas law geared to let child welfare service providers deny children to Texans based on a provider’s “sincerely held religious beliefs” could make their quest harder.
At issue: Many adoption agencies are faith-based and likely will oppose the couple’s move to be foster parents because Franklin is transgender. And the new law that goes into effect Sept. 1 would allow that.
Want more scare quotes? The Star-Telegram also feels compelled to put "the rights of conscience," the "Freedom to Serve Children Act" and "reasonable accommodations" inside quote marks. Would any of those phrases fail to make sense without quote marks? Or is the Star-Telegram intentionally casting doubt on the use of the terms (which would make them scare quotes)?
But just when it appears that the story will be a one-sided editorial, the paper actually allows the other side a voice. Among those quoted is Randy Daniels, vice president of program development for Baptist-affiliated Buckner Children & Family Services:
The new law — which echoes sentiments in last year’s Texas Republican Party platform — “provides conscience protection for faith-based providers who cannot abandon the tenets of the very faith that compels them to assist children in Texas’ foster care system,” according to an article written by Daniels and Heather Reynolds, president and CEO of Catholic Charities in Fort Worth.
“The bill requires DFPS to provide alternative providers in every region,” the article states. “It also requires any agency which cannot serve a family or a child because of sincerely held religious beliefs to refer them back to DFPS. No one will be denied the ability to serve these children, as long as they are properly vetted by the state.”
At Buckner, for instance, Daniels said, there’s a certain criteria for families the agency works with; the agency chooses not to work with same-sex families.
But it interviews prospective parents to determine whether there’s a good match between them and the agency.
“When we agree we are going to work together, it’s a huge commitment,” he said. “If there’s not a match, we refer them to other agencies for whatever the reason.”
The Star-Telegram mentions the Fort Worth-based Gladney Center for Adoption as an agency that might receive such a referral. But the newspaper doesn't quote anybody from there or ask what seems like an obvious question: Would that agency be able to work with the couple in the lede and conclusion?
I mean, the newspaper's whole premise is that if — say, Buckner — declined the couple, they would have nowhere else to turn. So why not take that claim a step further and see if the newspaper can find an agency that would accept the couple?
Will the new law turn families away? The Star-Telegram needs to dig a little deeper if it really wants to answer that question.