And care facilities themselves that do not discriminate against LGBTQ foster parents could be the target of overparties encouraged by a supposed Supreme Court victory.
In a city like Philadelphia, the Supreme Court ruling is unlikely to have much of an impact. There are tons of other organizations, including reputable religious organizations, that will continue to certify LGBTQ + families as foster parents. The question is, what happens in smaller communities – where the entire care system depends on a single organization – when that organization discriminates? What could happen in rural America if the only community serving organization chooses to discriminate like the Philadelphia Catholic Social Service?
Rural America, home to one-fifth of the US population, has the highest poverty and child poverty rates in the country. It also has that highest parenting rates among same-sex couples and LGBTQ + Individuals. In rural America, substance abuse is driving more foster children, but travel distances and lack of public transportation stand up than that big challenges Helping children.
Mitigating the risk and potential harm from this decision will not be easy, but some urgent steps will help.
First of all, cities and municipalities must carefully examine their contracts with child welfare providers. The Supreme Court ruling closely focused on the contract language of a Philadelphia vendor.
In his submission to the court, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “CSS is only seeking an arrangement that will enable it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs.” The Philadelphia City Treaty exempted agencies of the city’s anti-discrimination policy. The city’s refusal to enter into a contract with the Catholic agency, wrote Roberts, “thus violates the clause on the free exercise of the first constitutional amendment”.
Going forward, city officials must ensure that the exceptions and loopholes as in the Philadelphia Treaty are removed. There can be no leeway when it comes to discrimination. If an organization discriminates, no exceptions can be granted.
Lawyers, nonprofits, and those who care about it can’t be complacent. We need to work with our local authorities to ensure that the contract language is consistent and that the guidelines are updated.
Second, organizations themselves need to create safe spaces for LGBTQ + families. This Supreme Court decision sends a loud and clear message to families who are LGBTQ + that they can be legally discriminated against by organizations determined to do so. But we can use this moment to redouble our efforts and welcome LGBTQ + families to our midst, as foster and adoptive parents, and to our boards of trustees and directors. In this way, we can turn that loss into a moment of profit for our loneliest children.
These efforts are indispensable and for this reason: At the end of 2019, over 400,000 children were separated from their biological families and placed in foster families. We’ll end 2021 with roughly the same number of foster children.
Despite our best efforts, the grooming system is moving very slowly. After separation from their families, most children spend at least two years in the system. Our youngest children stay far too long and every year 23,000 of our oldest teenagers are leaving the system alone and without a family.
In fact, around 125,000 children in the care system are waiting to be adopted, however less than five percent live with a family willing to adopt them. And we fight the hardest to create love, belonging, and family for the children who identify as LGBTQ +. The estimates for this foster family LGBTQ + community vary from a low of four percent to a high of 34 percent. Most are victims of homophobia, transphobia, and rejection both inside and outside the care system.
In rural, conservative areas where fewer care facilities are available, the judgment leads to a multiplier effect of difficulties for both foster children and potential foster families. LGBTQ + families will likely be forced to travel for hours to find a foster home willing to work with them. This is a game changer for recruiting foster families.
The Research is clear: Children succeed when they are loved and have unconditional belonging. Unfortunately, these are experiences governments and charities can never offer. You need a family for that.
In my organization, The Children’s Village, many LGBTQ + families are committed to offering love and belonging to children who have been denied belonging, the basic building block for human success. It is not the mission of these beautiful families to influence a child’s sexuality. They just want to provide a safe home for children who have been systematically rejected and love denied.
LGBTQ + families are an immeasurable influence. Denying these loving families the opportunity to provide homes, love, and belonging to children would be a massive violation of our moral obligation. But it would also condemn a generation of rural children into loneliness and poverty, requiring continued government intervention, charity, or both. With this in mind, the question is simple: don’t these children deserve a family? Don’t they deserve to live in a house with people they love? Yes, they do!
In the past, services for children, especially services that encourage adoption, have enjoyed non-partisan support. That is changing in today’s non-partisan atmosphere. The Supreme Court ruling could encourage anti-LGBTQ groups to picket child welfare agencies, harass workers who serve LGBTQ + families, and pressurize donors to stop helping. You could even try to dominate the board of a nonprofit organization to dictate a discriminatory strategy. As of the events of January 6, 2021, such results can no longer be written off as improbable.
I grew up in a home that affirms, respects and discusses the great traditions of faith. My Sri Lankan father was a Buddhist monk who converted to Evangelical Christianity. I have studied and served among people of faith. I have seen and experienced love, hypocrisy, and division created in the name of religion. I respect the faith and get involved as best I can. I have learned one thing over and over again: the greatest of these is love – and love is love.