Most foster care parents provide homes because they genuinely care about children. They often work with private agencies that align with their values and beliefs. However, there is a case pending in the United States Supreme Court that could fundamentally change whether or not a private agency can help provide foster care and still hold onto their religious beliefs. The case is Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, PA, the city contracted with a private agency, Catholic Social Services (CSS), for foster care. In 2018, the city found out that CSS did not allow for same-sex foster parents. CSS refused to change their policy as it was based on religious belief. The city terminated their contract with CSS simply because CSS had this policy, even though they had never actually discriminated against same-sex couples. Instead, they would refer those couples to a different agency for assistance.
Suddenly, a whole bunch of good foster families who work with CSS found that they had plenty of space in their homes, but no children to fill them. And many children snatched from their homes were now stuck in institutions. A number of these foster parents then sued the city. The case wound its way through the court system and the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on November 4, 2020. One of the issues at stake is “whether the government violates the First Amendment by conditioning a religious agency’s ability to participate in the foster care system on taking actions and making statements that directly contradict the agency’s religious beliefs.” In other words, can governmental agencies trample on the rights of faith-based organizations and shut them out of helping society because of their deeply held religious beliefs. A decision is expected by June 2021. And because this has gone to the Supreme Court, its ruling will affect the whole country.
As an attorney who advocates that parents should have the right to parent their own children without government interference, this blog post might seem to be a little off topic. But let’s face it. Sometimes an unfair system makes unfair decisions. It removes children from loving arms and forces them into foster care. Wouldn’t you want the best possible foster care for those children? Do you want the government discriminating against an otherwise great agency based solely on religious beliefs? That appears to be what Philadelphia is doing. When you run into a situation like this, you’ve got to wonder: Is the government more interested in possible discrimination than in the actual needs of children?
And what do children need? A loving home. A safe environment. A place where they can grow and thrive. Keep in mind that the BEST place for a child is at home with his/her own mom and dad. As a second option, we often turn to foster parents. A huge portion of foster parents enter the system motivated by their religious beliefs and desire to serve the community. Their point of entry is often going to be through agencies that have similar belief systems. Do we really want to close those doors? Forcing faith-based agencies to choose between their belief system and serving their community is counterproductive and hurts children in the long-run.