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Vermont Imposes Gender Ideology Litmus Test for Foster Parents

Vermont is denying qualified foster parents the chance to care for children because of their religious beliefs.
Alliance Defending Freedom
Katy Wuoti smiles and holds her daughter

Children deserve to live in a safe home with a loving family. This is the main reason foster care programs exist—to provide children with a stable, positive place to live and grow up.

Vermont claims it wants to provide children with the nurturing environments they need while attempting to address what the State has called an unprecedented “crisis” of the foster care system.

Yet at the same time, the state is disqualifying people who have proven they can provide a loving home for children simply because they hold religious beliefs that the state dislikes.

Vermont revokes the Wuoti family’s foster license

Brian Wuoti is a high school math teacher and the pastor of a Baptist church in Vermont, and his wife Katy homeschools their five children. The Wuotis became licensed foster parents through the Vermont Department for Children and Families in 2015, and they have since adopted two children placed in their care.

Brian and Katy have treated every child placed with them as their own, and by all accounts, they have been wonderful foster parents. One supervisor in the department said she “could not hand pick a more wonderful foster family.”
Alliance Defending Freedom
Alliance Defending Freedom
Brian and Katy Wuoti became licensed foster parents in 2015.

But when the Wuotis tried to renew their license in 2021, they learned of a new policy from the department demanding that parents “support children’s identities even if it feels uncomfortable,” use pronouns that are inconsistent with their children’s sex, and take children to events like Pride parades that express views contrary to the parents’ beliefs.

In essence, the policy requires foster parents to agree to lie to children and tell them that they can change their sex.

The Wuotis are devoted Christians. They believe that God has created everyone either male or female and that sex cannot be changed. They also believe that marriage is designed to be between one man and one woman.

The Wuotis explained to a department employee that while they would love and support any child placed in their care regardless of the child’s sexual orientation or perceived “gender identity,” they could not compromise their religious beliefs.

The employee informed Brian and Katy that while he believed they would be a welcoming home for any child, these beliefs made them “essentially … ineligible for renewal of [their] foster parent license.” In April 2022, the Wuotis received a “Notice of Decision” recommending that their license be terminated.

The Gantt family has their foster license revoked

Like the Wuotis, Bryan and Rebecca Gantt are dedicated Christians who have answered God’s calling to care for foster children. After having four biological children, they decided to foster and ultimately adopt more.

The Gantts contacted the department about becoming licensed in 2016, and they shared their heart for serving children who were impacted by maternal alcohol and drug use. Before the Gantts even became officially licensed, the department offered to place a 4-month-old boy who was born addicted to drugs in their care due to an emergency. The Gantts became licensed about two months later and have since adopted three children.
Alliance Defending Freedom
Alliance Defending Freedom
Bryan and Rebecca Gantt have adopted three children.

When the Gantts renewed their foster license in 2022, they were asked to rate on a scale of one to five how “accepting and supportive” they would be of a child who identifies as LGBT. Rebecca answered a five and Bryan answered a four because they would love any child placed in their care unconditionally. They did not interpret the question to mean they would have to “affirm” beliefs they disagreed with, and the department raised no concerns.

In September 2023, the department contacted the Gantts again and said they needed a family to foster and likely adopt a baby boy who was about to be born to a homeless woman addicted to drugs. After praying about it, the Gantts decided to take the baby in.

But before meeting with the caseworker, the Gantts received an email informing them that they must affirm a child’s hypothetical sexual orientation and “gender identity” to keep their license. During the ensuing meeting, Bryan told the caseworker that while they would love and accept any child, they could not compromise their Christian beliefs.

The caseworker informed the Gantts that even if they adopted the child, the department would likely remove him and revoke their license when they tried to renew in 2024. Bryan soon spoke with a department employee and explained the Gantts’ beliefs, but the department only cared about whether the Gantts would agree to use inconsistent pronouns and attend Pride parades. When the Gantts still refused to violate their conscience, the department revoked their license.

By denying people the chance to be foster and adoptive parents because of their religious beliefs and compelling them to speak the government’s preferred message about sexual orientation and gender identity, Vermont is violating the First Amendment.

In June 2024, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Wuotis and the Gantts. Every child deserves a loving home, and children suffer when the government excludes people of faith from adoption and foster care.

Wuoti v. Winters

  • April 2022: The Wuotis received a “Notice of Decision” from the Vermont Department of Children and Families recommending their license not be renewed because they declined to violate their religious beliefs.
  • February 2024: The Gantts received a “Notice of Decision” from the department recommending their license be revoked because of their religious beliefs.
  • June 2024: ADF attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Wuoti and Gantt families.