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Supreme Court of the United States

We Need More Foster and Adoptive Parents. Why Does Philadelphia Put Politics Over Kids?

By Ryan Everson posted on:
March 9, 2020

In March 2018, the City of Philadelphia put out an urgent call for 300 more foster parents. Only days later, Philadelphia cut Catholic Social Services (CSS) from its foster care program. This came after CSS had placed 226 children in foster homes the year before.

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

CSS’s policy does not prevent anyone from becoming a foster parent. There are plenty of agencies in Philadelphia who serve same-sex couples, and CSS would refer such a couple if they came to CSS for services (none have). But because the City of Philadelphia disagrees with the Catholic Church’s view on marriage, it enacted a new policy banning CSS from receiving new foster care referrals. Sadly, the agency has been prohibited from helping any new foster children ever since. It now serves less than half as many children as it did two years ago, and it will soon be non-existent.

Shutting down faith-based adoption and foster care providers means fewer children will have a chance to find a loving home. That won’t help Philadelphia fill its urgent need for foster parents.

And it’s certainly not keeping kids first.


Putting Politics over People

Government officials targeting a religious charity for its beliefs is alarming in and of itself. But this act of government hostility toward religion is particularly odious for several reasons:

1. The City cannot point to a single person who would be harmed by allowing CSS to operate according to its religious beliefs.

Same-sex couples can adopt from over 90 percent of the 30 adoption agencies in the area; four agencies even have the LGBT Human Rights Campaign’s “Seal of Approval.” In fact, not a single same-sex couple asked to work with or filed a complaint against Catholic Social Services. And if a same-sex couple did come to Catholic Social Services, it would simply refer them to one of these other adoption agencies in Philadelphia.

2. Adoption agencies frequently specialize in a specific area.

Some agencies specialize in helping the Latino community. Others care for disabled children. And some even specialize in helping same-sex couples adopt.

Catholic Social Services has the same right as every other adoption agency to serve the faith community according to its principles. For CSS, this means it will not place children with same-sex couples, or with unmarried couples. Just as disabled children may be brought to a foster agency specifically equipped to help them, others may be brought to Catholic Social Services specifically to ensure they are raised by parents with certain religious values. Such specialties provide diversity within the foster care community—but the City is killing this diversity.

3. Vulnerable children are paying the price for the City’s anti-religious crusade.

There are more than 400,000 children in the foster system in the United States. The foster crisis is so extreme that some states are hosting foster children in hotels and office buildings because there is nowhere else to turn. And let’s not forget that Philadelphia issued an urgent call for 300 new foster families only days before suspending its relationship with Catholic Social Services.

But the City’s desire to force a religious adoption agency out of existence is greater than its desire to serve children in dire need. The city’s decision to prioritize its anti-religious vendetta over the pressing needs of hurting children should sadden everyone.

That’s why Catholic Social Services decided to take a stand.


A Glimmer of Hope

Catholic Social Services filed a lawsuit against Philadelphia in May 2018. After district and appellate courts ruled against CSS, the U.S. Supreme Court recently announced it will hear the case in the fall.

This decision has brought hope to Catholic Social Services and its foster parents, including Sharonell Fulton, who God called to be a foster parent over 25 years ago. Since then, she has fostered 40 children, some of whom did not experience compassionate love from a parent until being entrusted to her protection.

Two of the many children Sharonell fostered were brothers. She brought them into her home after an abusive adult doused them with boiling water in a drug-induced rage, sending them to the hospital for multiple weeks. These children had encountered extraordinary suffering. But with time, Sharonell improved their lives, gave them hope, and earned their trust through her loving care, just as she did with dozens of other children.

Sharonell and other foster parents have been prevented from fostering additional children through CSS since the City targeted the Catholic agency two years ago. But with the Supreme Court case on the horizon, they remain hopeful and prayerful that they can continue to lovingly serve the hurting children in their community (James 1:27), and in doing so, serve God through the unique and special calling He has placed on their hearts.


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Ryan Everson

Ryan Everson

Communication Integrity Specialist

Ryan serves as the Communication Integrity Specialist at Alliance Defending Freedom.

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