Press Release

10 states and 44 members of Congress back foster kids at Supreme Court Friend-of-the-court briefs defend faith-based foster agency from discrimination

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

WASHINGTON Ten states and 44 members of Congress urged the Supreme Court yesterday to hear Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case brought by two Philly foster mothers challenging the City of Philadelphia’s harmful actions which threaten the future of the faith-based foster agency that brought their families together. Texas, Ohio, and Oklahoma, among other states, joined a friend-of-the-court brief agreeing with Becket that faith-based foster agencies play a vital role in addressing the national foster crisis that has become even more urgent in light of today’s opioid epidemic.

Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch are Philadelphia foster mothers standing with Catholic Social Services (CSS) and all foster children in need of homes. Sharonell has fostered more than 40 children over 25 years. Toni is a former social worker who fostered two young brothers through Catholic Social Services and has now adopted them. In July, Becket asked the Supreme Court to hear Sharonell and Toni’s case and prevent vulnerable foster children from losing out on the opportunity to be placed in a loving home.

Ten states argued that “[W]orking with a diverse coalition of child-placing agencies provides better services to children in foster care and the potential parents eager to care for them,” and asked the Supreme Court to take the case to protect their ability to work with diverse agencies, including faith-based agencies.

Forty-four members of Congress urged the Court to take the case because “Religiously motivated providers and parents have played a critical role in filling this need for centuries from coast to coast, and to drive them out ignores the critical need and the grave harm to children that would be caused by their loss.”

Last year, Philadelphia put out a call for 300 more foster families to care for the growing number of children in need. Just days later, the city stopped placing children in homes certified and overseen by CSS solely because the city disagreed with the agency’s religious beliefs on marriage. Worse still, the city took these actions even though not a single same-sex couple had ever come to CSS seeking to foster. Without new referrals, the number of children in homes certified and cared for by CSS has dwindled, leaving foster families’ homes empty and forcing CSS to reduce their staff. The only way CSS can care for foster children is through a contract and license with the city. If the city cuts ties with CSS, the agency will soon be forced to close its 100-year-old foster care ministry.

“The foster care system relies on agencies that reflect the diversity of our communities,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket. “That’s why it is so important to have faith-based agencies working alongside agencies that cater to ethnic and racial minorities, children with disabilities, and LGBT families.”

The court is expected to decide whether to take the case sometime this fall. Becket is defending another faith-based foster agency from government discrimination in Michigan in Buck v. Gordon.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.