Supreme Court Stays Out of Case on Gay Rights and Foster Care

The Supreme Court refused on Thursday to intercede in a dispute between Philadelphia and a Catholic foster care agency that does not work with same-sex couples.

The city imposed a freeze on placements with the agency, Catholic Social Services, after an article in March in The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on its policy against placing children with same-sex couples. The agency and several foster parents sued the city in May, saying the move had violated their First Amendment rights to religious freedom and free speech.Anthony Kennedy retirement

A federal judge ruled against the agency in July, and an appeals court refused to order that placements be resumed while the appeal moves forward.

In asking the Supreme Court to step in, the agency said it could face dire consequences. “Without intervention,” the agency’s emergency application said, “the city’s intake freeze will force Catholic’s foster care program to close.”

The Supreme Court’s brief order gave no reasons for denying the request. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch said they would have granted it.

The agency said the dispute with the city was hypothetical, as it had not been approached by a same-sex couple seeking to be foster parents. Were that to happen, the agency said, it would refer the couple to one of many other foster care groups that work in Philadelphia.

“Whether or not Catholic’s program remains open,” the agency wrote, “there will be the same number of agencies in Philadelphia that serve L.G.B.T.Q. individuals.”

The case, the latest clash between anti-discrimination principles and claims of conscience, reached the justices at a preliminary stage and may yet return to them.

The case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, No. 18A118, is broadly similar to that of a Colorado baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

by Adma Liptak, New York Times, August 30, 2018

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Catholic Charities ending foster, adoption programs over same-sex marriage rule

Catholic Charities of Buffalo will end its foster care and adoption program because state rules that bar discrimination based on sexual orientation conflict with church teachings, officials from the organization said Thursday.

“We’re a Catholic organization, so we have to practice what we do consistent with the teaching of the church,” Dennis C. Walczyk, the chief executive officer of Catholic Charities, told The News.

A same-sex couple recently applied to the agency to become adoptive foster parents, and that precipitated the agency’s decision, Walczyk said.

The agency has a contract with the Erie County Department of Social Services that expires in March. The state Office of Children and Family Services licenses Catholic Charities and other providers of these services.

The state requires contracting organizations to allow same-sex couples to adopt or to raise foster children. That directive, however, goes against the church’s position that marriage is between a man and a woman, the Catholic Charities officials said.

Given that tension, the agency made the decision to phase out the foster care and adoption program.

“It is with deep sadness we acknowledge that the legacy of the high quality, exceptional services which our staff provides to children and families through foster care and adoption will be lost,”  Walczyk said in a statement formally announcing the end of the services. “We are working with the state OCFS and Erie County DSS to support a smooth transition for children in foster care and foster parents, as well as those who have submitted applications to provide foster care or seek adoption.”

Catholic Charities said the program currently has 55 certified foster homes, with 34 children in care in 24 of those homes.

“They will stay with their parents,” Walczyk said of the children currently placed through Catholic Charities. “They will stay in their homes.”

But eventually they will be under the auspices of another agency.

August 23, 2018, By  By

BuffaloNews.com

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Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation to Provide Children in Foster Care the Right to Visit Their Siblings

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation to affirmatively give siblings separated by foster care the right to visit and contact each other.

“This action will allow some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers to preserve family bonds that otherwise would be severed due to no fault of their own,” Governor Cuomo said. “I’m proud to sign this compassionate legislation, which will bring us closer to a stronger and more humane New York for all.” Foster Care

Although children with active abuse or neglect cases in foster care may file motions for visitation or contact with a sibling, the current law was ambiguous and unclear on whether other children in foster care could petition for this right, creating unnecessary obstacles for siblings to maintain ties.

Under the bill (A.7553/S.4835), amendments to the Family Court Act and the Social Services law allow contact or visitation between siblings, including half siblings, that have been separated by foster care. This includes:

• Children who are in foster care as a result of voluntary placement by a parent or guardian;
• Children who are in foster care as a result of a court ruling and “judicial surrender” of parental rights; and
• A child who is in foster care and whose sibling is not currently in foster care.

Office of Children and Family Services, New York – October 24, 2017

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ALEC MAPA AND JAMIE HEBERT: FAME, FAMILY, AND FOSTER CARE

“I was booked to perform at one of her R Family Vacations cruises in 2007,” recalls actor Alec Mapa, telling Gays With Kids that he and husband Jamie Hebert were surrounded by so many LGBT families that they just knew fatherhood was in the cards for them, too.

“I met a social worker on the ship specializing in helping LGBT families find foster-adopt placement,” Mapa continues, describing how he got her card and promptly lost it back on land in the junk drawer that is his garage. What happened next was kismet.

“So, when I was finally ready to call this woman, I realized that card was in a box somewhere in that garage! And I reached into a box, and the first thing I touched on was that card. We went to meet her at the Extraordinary Families agency, we took the foster-adopt courses … and nine months later we had a kid living in our house.”alec mapa

If you don’t know “America’s Favorite Gaysian,” you know his face: Mapa’s resume is catalog of critically-acclaimed comedy, from “Desperate Housewives” and “Ugly Betty” (where he played the hyperkinetic Suzuki St. Pierre) to “Devious Maids” and “The Gossip Queens.” He met producer Hebert on the set of his one-man show “Drama” in 2002 and the two have been an item ever since, marrying in 2008.

But this journey to fatherhood differs from most. When Zion came into their lives, he was the kind of kid most prospective parents don’t touch: He was African-American, he was a boy, and, at age five, he was old. Moreover, he was a foster-child, meaning his birthmother had not yet signed away her parental rights. To top it off, he had already been placed with four other families before Alec and Jamie got a hold of him.

“And were like, ‘This is our kid! We’re not giving him back!’” Mapa, 51, laughs. “Three months into our foster placement, he had the TPR — termination of parental rights — and nine months later, he was ours!”

Foster care and adoption are two different legal animals. The latter completely and permanently signs over the rights and responsibilities of the child from the birthparents to the adoptive parents. The child takes the surname of their new family and loses all automatic rights of inheritance with the old. A foster child can, and often does, maintain ties with their biological family even while in the care of another, and the biological parents have the final legal say in decisions concerning their child. Additionally, fostering lacks the permanency of adoption; children often shuffle from one foster family to another until they reach the age of 18, whereupon they are effectively cut loose.

For all the good intentions, it is no secret American foster care is overburdened, with up to 250,000 children entering yearly. It’s not all doom and gloom; 33 percent are back with their families within 11 months, and only seven percent of foster kids remain in care for more than five years. However, the longer a child stays in, the harder it is to get out. Chances for permanent placement drop drastically for children over five, siblings, children of color, and for self-identified LGBTQ youth. Some leave the system only after “aging out” of it, and can face the possibility of being family-less.

“The children in foster care deserve better,” says Rich Valenza, founder and CEO of Raise A Child, Inc., a foster-adopt advocacy and education resource for prospective LGBTQ parents (and for which Mapa is now a spokesperson). “Given the numbers, the solution to the foster care crisis is within reach and the answer is right here within the LGBT community.”

The numbers to which Valenza refers come from a 2013 study conducted by the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA Law, confirming no significant difference in children raised by straight and LGBTQ parents, and stated two million gay, lesbian, and bisexual people express an interest in foster parenting. That number dwarfs the 400,000 children in the American foster care system, 104,000 of whom are available for adoption as of this writing.

Adds Mapa, “When we were talking about adoption, I wanted a baby. And when we met Zion, he was five and that was a baby. When you are five, you still need your mommy, you still need your daddy. Or two guys with a really cute house!”

by GaysWithKids.com, August 1, 2016

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Same Sex Parenting Cases: Evidence Over Ideology?

Evidence Over Ideology in Same Sex Parenting Cases?

Last Friday, a Utah judge reversed an order in a same sex parenting cases, he had issued just three days earlier that would have removed a young girl from her home because her foster parents are lesbians. Under fierce pressure that even included grumbling by the state’s Republican governor, Judge Scott Johansen issued a temporary reversal after first ruling that it was “not in the best interest of children to be raised by same-sex couples.” The shift is good news for the girl and her foster parents, April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce; for child welfare advocates; and for anyone concerned with fairness, equality, or evidence-based policy.

Evidence should trump ideology when deciding on same sex parenting cases

Yet the matter is far from over. Johansen set a December date for the girl’s fate to be argued at a hearing. And the judge’s revised order left intact a critical foundation of his initial reasoning: what the judge still calls “a concern that research has shown that children are more emotionally and mentally stable when raised by a mother and father in the same home.”

Hoagland and Peirce told a news station they believe the judge relied on his religious beliefs to make his decision, something that would be plainly unconstitutional. Does the judge have any sound reason to give straight couples preference over same-sex ones?

Asked in court to cite any of the “myriad” studies he reportedly referenced in ruling against the same-sex couple, Johansen declined. And for good reason: There are none. A research team I direct, based at Columbia Law School, conducted one of the most exhaustive analyses of peer-reviewed studies on same-sex parenting published over the last 30 years. Our initiative, the What We Know Project, started with the question, “What does the scholarly research say about the well being of children with gay or lesbian parents?” Our results, which are constantly updated as new research emerges, are posted at our site, with links to the studies or their abstracts.

What did we find? Currently, there are 77 scholarly articles that address this question. Of those, 73—the vast majority—found that children raised in same-sex parenting homes fare just as well as their peers. Could the four outliers be the “myriad” studies Johansen is referencing? Not if he’s done an ounce of homework and is being remotely honest about what the research says. For starters, basing a ruling that breaks a family apart on four studies that are contradicted by 73 others is questionable on its face. But equally important, these four studies do not actually prove what their authors claim they do, and anyone who looks at them closely can see that.

Reviewing the studies clarifies that they all suffer from the same fundamental flaw: While the authors tout the importance of large, random samples and imply that that’s what they’re using, they in fact rely on samples that are anything but. Here’s how this works: They start with very large samples that come from a reliable dataset like the census. In some cases the original sample is as large as several million people. Out of this much ballyhooed sample size, researchers struggle to identify families in which a stable, same-sex couple raised children from infancy—the relevant standard, since what’s usually being debated, as in the Utah case, is whether such a couple ought to be allowed to parent. So researchers create their own definitions for what constitutes an “LGB” family, and they are uniformly very loose. In some cases they just ask children if a parent ever had a same-sex relationship and throw the “yes” kids into a category called “LGBT families”—even though they are a world apart from a situation in which children are raised by a stable, same-sex couple. This is not to say one type of family is superior to another, just that we must compare apples to apples to yield any useful conclusions about same-sex parenting. (Many of the gay-supportive studies also use small samples, but their authors don’t suggest otherwise, and—most important—they are actually studying children raised by same-sex parents.)

Click here to read the entire article.

by Nathaniel Frank, Slate.com

Lesbian Couple to Keep Foster Child Utah Judge Shifts Ruling

Utah Judge Reverses Ruling in Favor of Lesbian Couple

A Utah judge on Friday reversed his order to take a foster child away from a lesbian couple because of their sexual orientation, state officials said. The judge, Scott N. Johansen of Juvenile Court, had issued an order on Tuesday saying that the child, a 9-month-old girl, had to be removed from the home of a lesbian couple by the end of the day next Tuesday, and placed with a heterosexual couple.

The foster parents, Rebecca A. Peirce, 34, and April M. Hoagland, 38, and the state Division of Child and Family Services, both filed motions Thursday asking the judge to reconsider, and said they were prepared to appeal his decision. The couple, who are married, lives in Price, southwest of Salt Lake City.A Utah judge on Friday reversed his order to take a foster child away from a lesbian couple because of their sexual orientation

The clash is the first of its kind, said Ashley Sumner, a spokeswoman for the state agency, because Utah only recently began approving foster child placements with same-sex couples, after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on gay marriage in June.

Under fire from critics including gay rights activists and the state’s Republican governor, a judge in Utah on Friday reversed, at least temporarily, his order that a foster child be taken away from a lesbian couple because it was “not in the best interest of children to be raised by same-sex couples.”

While the child may remain with the couple for the moment, Judge Scott N. Johansen signaled that the matter might not be settled. He continued to question the placement of children with same-sex parents, a matter that will be taken up at a Dec. 4 hearing on what is in the best interests of this child, a 9-month-old girl.

The judge’s actions, coming after the Supreme Court this year established a right to same-sex marriage, put him at the center of another front in the nation’s legal and culture wars: the question of whether gay men and women can get, and keep, custody of children under various circumstances.

LGBT Advocates Outraged at Utah Judge

LGBT Advocates Outcry: Rights Violation!

Utah Judge Takes Foster Child From Couple Because They’re Lesbians

LGBT advocates and even Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton were outraged and April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce of Carbon County, Utah, were stunned when Judge Scott Johansen ordered their foster child removed from their home. The judge said the baby would be better off with heterosexual parents.

The couple, who legally wed in October 2014, have taken care of the 1-year-old girl for three months, and her birth mother has asked them to adopt the child. The Utah Division of Child and Family Services has been forced to find new housing for the child, but officials say they will appeal the judge’s decision.

utah-lesbians

“We love her and she loves us, and we haven’t done anything wrong,” Peirce told the Salt Lake Tribune. “And the law, as I understand it, reads that any legally married couple can foster and adopt.”

Attorneys for DCFS are currently reviewing the decision. “If we feel like [Johansen’s] decision is not best for the child, and we have a recourse to appeal or change it, we’re going to do that,” DCFS director Brent Platt said. “For us, it’s what’s best for the child.”

“Any loving couple if they are legally married, and meet the requirements, we want them to be involved,” he added.

The child’s state-appointed attorney supports the couple. The birth mother’s lawyer, who was in court with the couple when the decision was handed down, has said the mother is upset and wants her baby to stay with the women.

Judge Johansen, who the Tribune reported has repeatedly been reprimanded by the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission for “demeaning the judicial office,” claimed to have research proving children are better off when raised by heterosexual parents. In reality, all credible major studies show that a parent’s sexual orientation has no effect on a child’s social development and mental health.

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Advocate.com, November 12, 2015 by Bill Browning

Supreme Court gay marriage decision could end debate over children’s well-being

Mashable.com June 21, 2015 by Rebecca Ruiz

Matthew Mansell and Johno Espejo are like most American parents. They juggle work and family, try to keep up with household chores, and spend weekends with their two children, Wyatt, 8, and Elyse, 7.

Saturday nights are a special occasion. Mansell’s mother, who lives with the family in their Placentia, California home, treats everyone to dinner at a local restaurant. They come home, pile on the couch, and watch a movie selected by one of the kids. Most recently, Elyse chose the animated children’s movie ParaNorman.

It would all be rather ordinary — except for the fact that Mansell and Espejo are plaintiffs in Tanco v. Haslam, which has been consolidated with four other lawsuits under Obergefell v. Hodges, a landmark case before the Supreme Court challenging same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky. (The couple lived in Tennessee when they filed the original suit.)

While the case disputes the constitutionality of gay marriage bans, it also raises emotional questions about whether children of such couples are somehow worse off than the offspring of straight couples. An estimated 122,000 same-sex couples in the U.S. are raising more than 200,000 children, according to the Williams Institute, a think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Though decades of research show no emotional or psychological harm, opponents of same-sex marriage argue the possibility of such a thing is a compelling reason to prohibit gay unions. This line of reasoning is central to the defense of Michigan’s ban.

When the Supreme Court rules on the case in the coming weeks, its opinion could very well render that argument irrelevant. Mansell would welcome such a decision, but doesn’t need the Supreme Court to say what he already knows.

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Amendment: Gays could be denied as foster or adoptive parents in Texas

by Christy Hopp, May 25, 2015 – The Dallas Morning News

Gays and same-sex couples could be turned away from adopting children or serving as foster parents under an amendment filed by a social conservative House member and expected to be heard Tuesday.

The measure also would allow child welfare providers to deny teenagers in foster care access to contraception or an abortion under a wide umbrella of religious protections for the state contractor.

Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, has filed the measure that gives state contractors for child welfare services the right to sue the state if they are punished for making decisions based on their religious beliefs.

The state could not force contractors to follow policies providing for contraception or allowing same-sex couples to adopt, for instance. If the state tried to terminate a contract or suspend licensing for the state contractors’ failure to abide by such polices, the contractor could sue, win compensatory damages, relief from the policy and attorneys fees against the state, according to the proposal.

Sanford tried to pass as separate bill earlier in the session, but it failed. The proposal now has resurfaced as an amendment to the sunset bill that would reconstitute the Department of Family and Protective Services.

Civil rights and gay equality groups fought a similar measure earlier in the session, saying, “If enacted into law, Rep. Sanford’s amendment would allow child welfare providers to discriminate against not just gay and transgender families seeking to provide loving homes for children who need them, but also against people of other faiths, interfaith couples and anyone else to whom a provider objects for religious reasons. This would seriously weaken the state’s child welfare system by further shrinking the pool of qualified parents who can provide a safe, loving home for children.”

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Foster kids do equally well when adopted by gay, lesbian or heterosexual parents

October 19, 2012 by Stuart Wolpert in Health

The psychologists looked at 82 high-risk children adopted from foster care in Los Angeles County. Of those children, 60 were placed with heterosexual parents and 22 were placed with gay or lesbian parents (15 with gay male parents and seven with lesbian parents). The age of the children ranged from 4 months to 8 years, with an average age of 4, while the adoptive parents ranged in age from 30 to 56, with an average age of 41. Sixty-eight percent of the parents were married or living with a partner. The psychologists studied the children two months, one year and two years after they were placed with a family. The children underwent a cognitive assessment by a clinical psychologist three times during the course of the study, and the parents completed standard questionnaires about the children’s behavior at each of the three assessment periods. The psychologists found very few differences among the children at any of the assessments over the two-year period following placement. On average, children in heterosexual, gay and lesbian households achieved significant gains in their cognitive development, and their levels of behavior problems remained stable. Their IQ scores increased by an average of 10 points, from about 85 to 95—a large increase, from low-average to average functioning.
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