The state of Illinois has notified Catholic Charities in Springfield and three other cities that it will not renew foster care and adoption contracts with those agencies.
Attorneys for three of the agencies will be in court in Springfield this afternoon seeking an immediate order to continue the contracts [they have filed for a declartory judgment].
The Department of Children and Family Services notified Catholic Charities in Springfield, Peoria, Joliet and Belleville on Friday that it will not offer contracts to provide foster care and adoption services for the new fiscal year.
“Your agency has made it clear that it does not intend to comply with the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act,” DCFS said in the notice [this is not true; we are awaiting the declaratory judgment to see if DCFS can force Catholic Charities to place children with unmarried couples; Catholic Charities has not placed children with unmarried couples in the past and this has not been an issue. The new act guarantees the protection of religious freedom and says, "Nothing in this Act shall interfere with or regulate the religious practice of any religious body." DCFS seeks to do just that]. “That law applies to foster care and adoption services. Thus, there is no meeting of the minds as to the FY12 Foster Care and Adoption Contracts.”
The Springfield, Peoria and Joliet agencies sued the state last month seeking a court order [a declaratory judgment] that they do not have to place foster children with unmarried couples, including those in civil unions. Steven Roach, executive director of Catholic Charities for the Springfield Diocese, said at the time that such placements would require the charities to violate their religious principles.
Roach could not be reached for comment Monday.
Quinn: ‘Not going back’
During a bill-signing ceremony in Chicago Monday, Gov. Pat Quinn said the charities sparked the state action [I don't believe that is true; had the law not been signed, this would not be an issue. Catholic Charities has not changed it policies].
“We have a law in Illinois. We’re not going back,” Quinn said. “
The charities said they are willing to continue their current practice of referring unmarried couples to other agencies, but the state said that isn’t enough.
“We cannot enter into a contract for services with anyone who has publicly, affirmatively stated that they will not follow the law when they deliver these services,” said DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe [the law itself says it shall construe with the free practice of religion; therefore Catholic Charities is following the law]. “We must now plan to transition these services with the least interruption possible” [or you could wait for the court to issue its declaratory judgment to see who is in violation of the law].
Marlowe said just under 2,000 children are receiving Catholic Charities services. The Springfield Diocese had 267 children in foster care in early June.
An attorney representing Catholic Charities said the state should have allowed the lawsuit to be heard before making its decision.
“If we are going to do this process, then, for heaven sake, don’t disrupt the children’s lives,” said Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society. “We’re not aware of a single entity that could take all of these kids. The difficulty is when you change caseworkers on a child in midstream, it greatly increases the chance the child will not have a positive long-term outcome.”
Marlowe said DCFS is confident it can place the children with other agencies with minimal disruption.
Earlier this year, Catholic Charities in Rockford bowed out of foster services rather than have to place children in the homes of same-sex or unmarried couples. All 300 children in the Rockford agency’s care were placed with Youth Services Bureau of Illinois Valley by the end of June. Also, DCFS placed 1,000 children who were with Catholic Charities of Chicago with other agencies after ending contracts with it.
“Illinois has a strong non-profit child-welfare community that stands to reach to take these cases if necessary,” Marlowe said.
Breen said it is clear the General Assembly did not intend to force religious institutions to recognize civil unions if it conflicted with their beliefs.
“We think we have a strong legal position and a reasonable interpretation of the law,” Breen said.
12 July 2011
States seeks to end foster care and adoption contracts with Catholic Charities with minimal disruption
The State Journal-Register has lengthened its piece on Governer's stand against Catholic Charities. The updated text follows, with my emphaes and comments: