Religious News Service reporter Bobby Ross, Jr. recently asked this question, “When adoption agencies can turn away gay prospective parents, what happens to the kids?” With conflicts between religious based adoption and foster care agencies and government non-discrimination regulations playing out across the country including the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, this is an important question.
In March, the City of Philadelphia issued an urgent call for 300 new foster parents to provide loving homes for some of the over 6,000 kids in Philadelphia foster care. That same month, the City abruptly barred Catholic Social Services, one of the city’s top-rated foster agencies, from placing children with foster families. This decision makes it exponentially harder for hundreds of children in need of foster care to find homes. Foster homes are sitting empty, even as the city begs for more families to help in its foster care crisis.
Catholic Social Services and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia have been serving children throughout Philadelphia for over a century. Their Catholic mission drives them to find loving homes for all children in their care, regardless of the child’s race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. Catholic Social Services currently serves over 100 children in foster homes. No family or individual has ever complained that the agency’s Catholic mission prevented them from fostering or adopting a child.
Sharonell Fulton from Overbrook Farms has been a foster parent for over 25 years. She has opened her home to over 40 children, including two children currently in her care. She strives to provide a loving, stable home and treat each child as if they were her own. To do that, Fulton relies on Catholic Social Services’ help, including around-the-clock support and access to information and resources.
“What justice is there in taking stable, loving homes away from children?” Fulton said in a statement to CatholicPhilly.com. “If the city cuts off Catholic Social Services from foster care, foster moms like me won’t have the help and support they need to care for the special-needs kids.”
By freezing and threatening to cancel its foster care contract with the CSS, the city is “taking away this help and causing harm and heartache to countless families like mine,” Fulton said. The children will suffer if parents like Fulton do not have the support they need.
In May, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court in Philadelphia on behalf of archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS), Sharonell Fulton and two other women caregivers associated with the archdiocesan agency. They asked the court to halt the city’s harmful policy. A hearing is expected later this year.