WASHINGTON, D.C. — Kansas and Oklahoma “are keeping kids first” by enacting laws protecting the conscience rights of adoption and foster care providers, said the chairmen of three U.S. bishops’ committees May 18.

Both states just enacted laws to “allow all capable adoption and foster care providers to serve children in need,” the bishops said.

“We need more, not fewer, agencies to serve children who need loving homes,” they added, pointing out that the nation’s opioid crisis “has caused a large increase in the number of children entering the foster care system.”

The joint statement was issued by Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, chairman of the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation into law May 18 and May 11, respectively, to ensure faith-based adoption and foster care providers “can provide these services in accordance with their deeply held religious beliefs or moral convictions,” the bishops said.

With Kansas and Oklahoma, at least nine states now have passed similar laws; the others are Virginia, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas. These laws do not exclude any providers or prohibit anyone from adopting but merely ensure the inclusion of faith-based providers, the USCCB said in releasing the bishops’ statement.

On the federal level, the USCCB supports the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2017, which protects child welfare providers from being discriminated against by federal or state government entities due to the providers’ religious beliefs or moral convictions. In the House the measure is H.R. 1881, and in the Senate it is S. 811.