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VFA Files Amicus Brief in Support of Ending Discrimination in Foster Care

Haley Resnick 

Policy Associate Intern

       In November 2018, the topic of religious freedom emerged in the Philidelphia court, this time surrounding the right to practice discrimination in the adoption system based on religious ideals. The issue arose after a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer found certain faith-based agencies violate the non-discrimination requirements Philidelphia had put in place in regards to the placement of children. After reviewing Catholic Charities, the City determined the agency, among others, was not in compliance with non-discrimination requirements and ended their contract. Catholic Charities labeled the City’s canceling of the contract as religious discrimination, citing the well-known 2017 Supreme Court decision, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, as a similar instance of anti-religious prejudice. 

       In Philadelphia, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled against the Catholic Charities agency. In the City of Philadelphia's legal brief, they wrote, 

“For many years, the City’s standard foster-care contracts have prohibited discrimination based on characteristics enumerated in the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance, including race and sexual orientation. The City has never allowed contractors to turn away potential foster parents based on a protected characteristic. Although this longstanding policy applies to all City contractors—and although the City has long contracted with Catholic Social Services and continues to do so for a range of other child-welfare services—CSS contends that the City’s decision to enforce this policy against it reflects religious hostility.” 

       Voice for Adoption joined many children’s groups and advocates in August 2020 to file an amicus brief supporting the City of Philadelphia in upholding their non-discrimination requirements in child placements. The case will be heard at the Supreme Court the day after the presidential election, meaning the new supreme court appointee can be highly influential in perpetuating or abolishing discrimination in the adoption and foster care system.

       The amicus brief writers include Voice for Adoption, the Child Welfare League of America, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, and the National Association of Social Workers. In the brief, the authors state:

“Policies that prohibit discrimination against prospective foster parents based on characteristics unrelated to child welfare promote the best interests of children in foster care. These policies ensure the broadest possible pool of potential parents, maximizing the chances of a good match between children in the foster care system and foster parents. Additionally, policies that prohibit discrimination against prospective foster parents who are same-sex couples or LGBTQ reduce the disproportionately adverse outcomes experienced by LGBTQ children in the foster care system, including eliminating the traumatic effects of being entrusted to the care of an agency that is not LGBTQ-affirming. “
       As a co-founder of the, Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign, Voice for Adoption is actively engaged in ending discrimination in foster care and adoptions based on religion, marital status, gender, and sexual orientation. Voice for Adoption is committed to making this a reality, as exemplified by our work on the Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign and our work on the amicus brief. Voice for Adoption hopes the court will recognize the necessity of prohibiting discrimination in the foster care system, for the sake of children and parents everywhere.