Adoptive families tell court: Don’t let ACLU shut down vital programs Michigan foster kids and families speak up against ACLU lawsuit that would end efforts critical to adoption programs
Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A group of adopted children and foster families were in court today to fight back against the ACLU’s efforts to shut down the adoption programs that brought their families together. In Dumont v. Lyon, the ACLU is trying to stop the state of Michigan from working with private adoption agencies because they run their programs based on their religious beliefs. If the ACLU succeeds, this would take away critical support that foster families need, and make it even harder for thousands of foster kids, particularly minority and special needs children, to find permanent homes.
There is a nationwide shortage of families willing to foster and adopt. In Michigan alone, there are thousands of kids in the foster care system, many of whom age out without finding a home. But in 2017, the ACLU sued the State of Michigan to shut down its partnerships with faith-based foster and adoption agencies like St. Vincent Catholic Charities solely because of their religious beliefs about marriage. But St. Vincent’s beliefs have never prevented a child from being placed in a loving home.
“Agencies like St. Vincent find homes for children who were once like me – neglected and abused. I would not have a family or a future if it weren’t for St. Vincent,” said Shamber Flore, a former foster child who found her adoptive family through St. Vincent.
Every year over 600 youth age out of Michigan’s foster care system, which means that at the age of 18 they officially leave the foster system never having found a permanent home. This number is on the rise, and a recent study showed that these youth are more likely to end up in poverty, without an education, and back on the streets. The government can’t recruit enough families to foster and adopt on its own so it relies on private agencies, like St. Vincent Catholic Charities, to help find more willing families. Last year, St. Vincent recruited more new foster families than nearly 90 percent of other agencies in its service area. It is particularly successful at finding homes for children with special needs, minority children, and large sibling groups – and it provides critical ongoing support to foster families who adopt these kids.
“We couldn’t have adopted without the support of St. Vincent,” said Melissa Buck, a mother of five special needs children adopted through St. Vincent. “And we continue to rely on vital support services St. Vincent provides to this day. If these programs were closed down, it would really hurt our family.”
Despite St. Vincent’s important work, in September 2017 ACLU sued to make it illegal for the state to partner with them solely because of their religious beliefs about marriage. St. Vincent’s beliefs have never prevented a child from being placed in a loving home. In fact, gay couples working with other agencies have been able to adopt children in St. Vincent’s care in the past. The ACLU’s clients live closer to four other foster and adoption agencies that would have helped them adopt. Instead of going to these agencies, they have spent years targeting St. Vincent and trying to shut down their programs.
“There is a crisis in the foster care system. There are thousands of children and not enough homes,” says Stephanie Barclay, counsel at Becket. “The answer is more agencies to recruit and support foster families, not closing down successful ones like St. Vincent. The real casualties of the ACLU’s lawsuit are the kids.”
A decision on whether foster families and former foster kids will be able to defend their rights alongside St. Vincent is expected by the end of April.
For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at email@example.com or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more).