Press Release

Massachusetts bans faithful Catholics from adopting children Religious couple asks to foster and adopt vulnerable children; state says no

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

WASHINGTON – A religious couple in Massachusetts took the Commonwealth to court today for banning them from welcoming vulnerable children into their home through the Commonwealth’s foster care program. In Burke v. Walsh, Mike and Kitty Burke wanted to foster and someday adopt children in need of a family. Even though Massachusetts has a foster care crisis, state officials refused to let the Burkes foster any children in the state. The reason was their religious beliefs about marriage, sexuality, and gender. With the help of Becket, the Burkes are asking the court to ensure that qualified families no longer suffer for their religious beliefs and that vulnerable children are given a loving home.  

Mike and Kitty Burke are a Catholic couple from Massachusetts who have long wanted to become parents. Mike is an Iraq war veteran, Kitty is a former paraprofessional for special needs kids, and together they run a business and perform music for Mass.  Mike and Kitty began exploring becoming foster parents through the state’s foster care program, hoping to care for and eventually adopt children in need of a stable, loving home like theirs. 

“After months of interviews and training, and after years of heartbreak, we were on the verge of finally becoming parents,” said Mike and Kitty Burke. “We were absolutely devastated to learn that Massachusetts would rather children sleep in the hallways of hospitals than let us welcome children in need into our home.”  

Children in foster care throughout Massachusetts are waiting for families like the Burkes. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) currently does not have enough foster homes or facilities to meet the needs of the children in its care, leaving over 1,500 children without a family. The crisis has become so extreme that the state has resorted to housing children in hospitals for weeks on end. Now more than ever, Massachusetts needs the help of parents like Mike and Kitty to foster children in need. 

During their application process, the Burkes underwent hours of training, extensive interviews, and an examination of their home. Mike and Kitty completed the training successfully and received high marks from the instructors. However, during their home interviews, the Burkes were troubled that many questions centered on their Catholic views about sexual orientation and gender dysphoria. In response, the Burkes emphasized that they would love and accept any child, no matter the child’s future sexual orientation or struggles with gender identity.  

However, because Mike and Kitty said they would continue to hold to their religious beliefs about gender and human sexuality, they were denied the ability to foster. The couple’s home study said, “Their faith is not supportive.” DCF officials said that while they had strengths, their answers about sexuality and gender barred them from being licensed.  This denial was as unnecessary as it was unconstitutional. Massachusetts law protects the religious liberty of foster parents. And Massachusetts is supposed to put the best interests of children first.   

“It takes the heroic effort of parents like Mike and Kitty to provide vulnerable children with loving homes through foster care,” said Lori Windham, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “Massachusetts’ actions leave the Burkes, and families of other faiths, out in the cold. How can they explain this to children waiting for a home?”  

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