On June 17, the Supreme Court ruled that Catholic Social Services (CSS) can continue placing foster children in Philadelphia despite its refusal to work with same-sex parents. The case has raised concerns about CSS’s right to operate in accordance with its religious principles under the First Amendment as well as the city’s right to demand that contractors not discriminate. As Reason’s Scott Shackford reported:
“Today’s majority decision in Fulton v. Philadelphia bears some resemblance to the 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision about gay wedding cakes. In that ruling, the majority decision didn’t actually determine whether the state could mandate under its anti-discrimination law that a baker must make a cake for a same-sex wedding, despite his religious objections. Instead, the majority determined that the discrimination ordinance was not being neutrally applied…In today’s case, the majority similarly determined that Philadelphia’s anti-discrimination regulations were not being neutrally applied.”
The Court’s decision means that more children are likely to find stable foster homes in Philadelphia.
As I discussed recently, there is a shortage of quality foster parents for the over 400,000 children in the foster care system nationally. Bad foster care adds trauma on top of the stress kids may have experienced in their birth homes and due to their removal. County social service agencies should prioritize placing children in stable, nurturing foster homes and giving them permanency as soon as possible. Ideally, permanency involves a return to the birth home, but, when biological parents have passed away or simply cannot get it together, permanent placement may well take the form of adoption by foster parents.
Studies show that foster kids who age out of the system without getting a solid permanent placement are more likely to become homeless or end up in the criminal justice system than other children. Counties that work with as many qualified agencies as possible are more likely to find more qualified foster and adoptive parents.
As National Public Radio reports, Philadelphia works with about thirty foster family agencies. This suggests that same-sex parents who are motivated to become foster parents can find agencies other than CSS to connect them with children who need a good home. With so many faith-based organizations currently participating in the foster care system, the Supreme Court’s decision will likely have a positive impact on America’s foster children who need as many good options as possible.