Philly halts foster placements with 2 faith-based agencies shutting out LGBT couples

Mayor Jim Kenney says the city will investigate whether Catholic Social Services and Bethany Christian Services violated city contracting laws by refusing to place foster kids with same-sex couples. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Mayor Jim Kenney says the city will investigate whether Catholic Social Services and Bethany Christian Services violated city contracting laws by refusing to place foster kids with same-sex couples. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

The city of Philadelphia is taking action against two foster care agencies with policies against placing kids with same-sex couples.

Mayor Jim Kenney said he finds it unbelievable that the two faith-based agencies that had been contracted with the city discriminate against qualified same-sex couples.

“I think that two women or two men that happen to love each other or are married to each other who pass all the background checks and the financial circumstances and have a nice home should be able to welcome a foster child into their home,” Kenney said.

The city has stopped placing children with Catholic Social Services and Bethany Christian Services. And Kenney promised an investigation into whether they have violated city contracting laws.

“We should first have a conversation with them to see what the extent of their discrimination is, but we cannot use taxpayer dollars to fund organizations that discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation or because of their same-sex marriage status,” he said. “It’s just not right.”

Catholic Archdiocese spokesman Ken Gavin said the Catholic Social Services policy, rooted in church teaching, should not surprise anyone.

He added that the city does not refer couples to Catholic Social Services and stressed that the agency serves all youth.

Catholic Social Services “does not make inquiry as to the sexual identity or orientation of the young people it serves. It provides foster care services to those who need such assistance regardless of their background. That’s important to note as it is also a deeply held religious belief for us to provide care for all those in need with dignity, charity, and respect,” he said.

Last year, Bethany Christian Services was reimbursed $1,314,562 to operate foster homes for 170 children, representing 1.5 percent of the Human Services Department’s total outlay to all foster care providers. Catholic Social Services was reimbursed $1,667,745 in the same year to operate foster homes for 266 children, representing 1.9 percent of the total expenditure. Of those amounts, approximately 40 percent goes to the agency administration and 60 percent is paid directly to foster parents.

Mike Dunn, Kenney’s spokesman, said the city is closely investigating the past and current practices of these organizations. City officials encourage anyone who feels they have been discriminated against to contact Philadelphia’s Commission on Human Relations.

The city will work with the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs and Department of Human Services trainers on professional development for foster care agency staff to ensure that the city’s priorities are aligned, Dunn said. That will include ensuring an approach that consistently welcomes and affirms LGBT foster parents.

 

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