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The Supreme Court Case That Will Impact Thousands of Vulnerable Children

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
June 5, 2020

Sharonell Fulton has dedicated over 25 years of her life to caring for more than 40 foster children.

As a Christian, Sharonell sees it as an extension of her faith to care for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). That’s why she has partnered with Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia for so many years.

But her life’s work caring for these children is being threatened by the City of Philadelphia, which cut Catholic Social Services from its foster care program in 2018.

Why? Because Catholic Social Services operates consistently with the teachings of the Catholic Church—which means it cannot place foster children with same-sex couples because the agency believes marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

Philadelphia officials have decided that a political agenda trumps the needs of children. That’s why Catholic Social Services filed a lawsuit against the City in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. The U.S. Supreme Court will likely hear oral arguments for the case this fall.

This week, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of two faith-based adoption and foster-care agencies that are being forced to make the same impossible choice as Catholic Social Services: conform their beliefs to match the government’s or shut down.

There are more than 400,000 children in the foster system nationwide. The government should be supporting policies that help these children—not forcing faith-based agencies out of existence because it doesn’t like their beliefs.

Before the City of Philadelphia enacted its discriminatory policy, Catholic Social Services oversaw about 100 foster homes a day and placed 226 children in foster homes in 2017. Shutting down this faith-based foster-care provider means fewer children will have a chance to find a loving home.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Laws demanding that faith-based agencies act against their beliefs have forced Catholic Charities to cease their foster-care and adoption ministries in Boston; Washington, D.C.; Illinois; San Francisco; and Buffalo. In Illinois, for example, this forced thousands of children and foster parents to leave Catholic Charities—displacing roughly 3,000 children.

How the Supreme Court rules in this case could impact thousands of vulnerable children, which is why two ADF clients are asking the Court to keep kids first.

New Hope Family Services

New Hope Family Services is a nonprofit Christian ministry in New York that serves as a pregnancy resource center and adoption provider—connecting birthmothers with couples looking to adopt. Since 1965, it has placed more than 1,000 children in loving adoptive homes. And it has done all of that without a single dollar of public funds.

As a faith-based ministry, New Hope believes placement with a married mother and father is in the best interests of children. So New Hope respectfully refers unmarried and same-sex couples to one of the many other adoption providers in New York. These couples have respected New Hope’s beliefs—no complaint has ever been filed against the ministry.

Still, New York’s Office of Child and Family Services demanded New Hope place children with unmarried and same-sex couples or shut down its adoption ministry. That’s why ADF filed a lawsuit on New Hope’s behalf.

But how the Supreme Court rules in Fulton could determine whether New Hope’s ministry survives.

Catholic Charities West Michigan

Catholic Charities West Michigan is one of Michigan’s oldest and largest foster-care and adoption providers. It contracts with the state to serve vulnerable children, overseeing up to 300 children in foster care every day. And in the past decade, it has placed close to 4,500 children in adoptive or foster homes.

Like Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia, Catholic Charities West Michigan operates consistently with the teachings of the Catholic Church and cannot place children with same-sex couples.

For years, Michigan worked with Catholic Charities while respecting its beliefs. But in 2018, a new state attorney general agreed that the state will no longer work with foster care and adoption agencies who desire to place children in homes with a married mother and father according to their religious beliefs. This move directly contradicts Michigan state law, which protects the rights of faith-based providers to operate consistently with their beliefs. But now, providers like Catholic Charities face the closure of their foster-care and adoption ministries unless they choose to compromise their religious beliefs about marriage.

Every child deserves the chance to be adopted or cared for by a foster family. Faith-based adoption and foster care providers that help children find loving homes should be celebrated, not targeted and shut down for their faith.

Please join us in praying that the Supreme Court sets this right and puts the needs of these vulnerable children first.

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Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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