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New White House Proposal to Further Alienate Religious Foster Parents

New York Post

October 10, 2023

“All young people in foster care, including those who happen to be LGBTQ, deserve affirming, supportive environments to call home,” said Kasey Suffredini of the Trevor Project, as she and other advocates applauded the recent announcement from the White House proposing rules to require training for foster parents in how to care for these youth.

The rule might sound like a good idea, but it’s unconstitutional and will probably exacerbate the nationwide shortage of foster families.

First, issues regarding child welfare are governed by the states, not the feds. Placement for foster care is supposed to be done on the basis of what’s in the best interests of the child. States will define that differently, but this rule “puts a thumb on the scale of what is traditionally local issue and could usurp a state’s authority,” says Jon Scruggs, a lawyer at the Alliance Defending Freedom.

To understand what the Biden administration and the supporters of this policy are trying to accomplish, it’s instructive to look at the recent case in Massachusetts of Michael and Kitty Burke. The two were denied a foster-care license because they said they would not support surgery or hormone therapy for trans youth and referred to the latter as “chemical castration.” The Catholic couple also expressed hesitation about using a child’s “preferred pronouns.”

Their application was denied by the state’s Department of Children and Families.

Or take Jessica Bates, a single mother of five in Oregon who was denied the opportunity to adopt a child out of foster care. Contrary to the department’s policy, she would not agree in principle to take a child to receive hormone shots or to avoid religious services that did not support a gender transition.

Supporters of these rules argue that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the child welfare system because they have been rejected by their own families and that the problems of these youth will be alleviated if they find a family who will call them by different pronouns or pump them full of hormones. Unfortunately, there is not much hard evidence for this.

But these policy proposals are part of a long campaign to make religious foster families adhere to progressive ideology. For years, much of this effort was directed at religious foster agencies, some of which would not place foster youth with same-sex couples.

This conflict came to a head in 2021 when the Supreme Court unanimously found in favor of Catholic Social Services in its lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia. Local officials had ended their contract with faith-based organizations because of their policy, but the court found that since all foster agencies can make exceptions to the city’s “nondiscrimination” policies, “the City offers no compelling reason why it has a particular interest in denying an exception to CSS while making them available to others.”

But “the Biden administration is not paying close attention to what the Supreme Court is saying,” Lori Windham, vice president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, tells The Post.

In the time since numerous lawsuits have been litigated against states for continuing to accommodate the religious tenets of faith-based agencies. Just last week, A federal court upheld South Carolina’s decision to continue partnering with Miracle Hill, a faith-based foster care ministry. The ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State had sued to stop the state from working with religious foster agencies. 

In Philadelphia, South Carolina, and everywhere else in the country there are numerous alternative nonreligious organizations as well as the state itself that can certify foster parents and place children. But these activists seem determined to wipe out any vestige of religious families from the system.

Which is a real shame because religious families do the heaviest lifting in our foster system.

More than one-fifth of foster parents say they are motivated to do this work because of their faith. And more than 80% attribute their success in fostering to the support of their faith. 

As Jedd Medefind of the Christian Alliance for Orphans notes, “A rule like this would undoubtedly have a chilling effect on the willingness of people of earnest faith to serve through the child welfare system. In a time when we desperately need more caring families serving children in foster care, this rule would almost certainly lead to fewer.”

There are plenty of nonreligious parents who don’t believe that double mastectomies or calling a child by a different name are beneficial either, but in the world of foster care, we have seen time and time again that scoring ideological points trumps the best interests of children.