I fight for parents. It is what I do every day. In my view, the best place for a child is with his or her own parents, not foster care. At the same time, I recognize that children do end up in foster care for a variety of reasons. So, even though I do not like to see kids in foster care, my clients have an interest in quality foster parents serving in this capacity. The Supreme Court’s recent 9-0 ruling seems to have advanced that cause.
The case is Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. The court battle began in 2018 when the City learned through a news article that Catholic Social Services (CSS) did not accept same-sex couples as foster parents. The City then demanded that CSS change their policy, which it based on deeply held religious beliefs. If they did not, the City would terminate the contract with CSS for foster care. CSS refused, the city terminated the contract and several foster parents then sued the city. The City won in both the U.S. District Court and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The case finally ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court in November 2020. The Court ruled unanimously in favor of the foster agency, and you can read the full opinion HERE.
Keep in mind that CSS has a more than 200-year history of helping the children of Philadelphia in one way or another. Even the City of Philadelphia acknowledged that CSS has “long been a point of light in the City’s foster-care system.” And Philadelphia’s own policy even allowed for an exception on the “sole discretion” of the Commissioner. So why the battle? I can only guess that their efforts to shut out CSS were politically motivated and not based on what was best for the children of the city.
In its ruling the Court stated, “ … CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else. The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment.”
This ruling does not mean that same-sex couples can’t be foster parents. Far from it. There are plenty of agencies available to provide training and certification for those couples. What it does mean is that a religious organization cannot be forced to abandon their beliefs in order to continue to serve the families in Philadelphia.
It is my mission to help parents. I believe that a loving home with their own parents is the best place for children. That does not change the fact that thousands of children are placed in foster care every day. Intentionally excluding qualified foster parents due to their religious beliefs makes no sense. It is nice to know that, once in a while, the US Supreme Court agrees with me.