Two adoption agencies in Philadelphia, US have been found to turn away LGBTQ couples from their services.
A lesbian couple has spoken out about how they were turned away from Bethany Christian Services and Catholic Social Services – two separate agencies which are listed with the Department of Human Services.
The department has issued an urgent call for more foster parents.
Despite this, the agencies have turned away potential parents over their sexuality – in turn, violating a contract which forbids discrimination.
Talking to the Philly Inquirer, a married lesbian couple explained how they were turned away from the agencies.
Megan Paszko and her wife first encountered anti-LGBT sentiments from the agency when they visited an orientation at their offices.
They were the first to arrive, and they say that a trainer approached them and told them “I just want to be upfront. This organisation has never placed a child with a same-sex couple,” Paszko claimed.
The trainer then allegedly said she didn’t want to “waste two hours” of their time.
Paszko said: “I just couldn’t believe it.
“There are so many kids out there who need homes, you’re really going to deny them a good one?”
“If you work and you actually have the financial means to help a kid, I feel like the system is not set up to help you do that,” Paszko said. “There have just been so many stops along the way where I’ve just said, ‘Ugh, this is not meant to be.’”
The Philadelphia branch of ACLU said the rejection was a “tragedy for the kids of Philadelphia”>
“This agency is putting its own view on religion above the needs of its kids,” said deputy legal director Mary Catherine Roper.
Roper added that as a government contracted agency it should not be legal for Bethany Christian Services, who has held a contract since 1996, and Catholic Social Services, who has worked for the DHS since 1997, to implement their religious beliefs.
“A government doesn’t get to use a contractor to implement religious programs and when you start saying, ‘We’re running this as a religious program such that we won’t take you because you don’t fit our religious view,’ then the city is paying for a religious program, and that’s a problem under the First Amendment,” they said.
Joe DiBenedetto, a spokesperson for Bethany, confirmed that their policy dictated that they place children with a married opposite-sex couple, or individuals.
“This has been our practice throughout our nearly 75 years of operation and is based on our adherence to what we believe to be foundational Biblical principles,” they said.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Ken Gavin, said that Catholic Social Services had not, as far as they knew, had interest by any LGBTQ hopefuls but if they had they would not work with them.
“Catholic Social Services is, at its core, an institution founded on faith-based principles. The Catholic Church does not endorse same-sex unions, based upon deeply held religious beliefs and principles. As such, CSS would not be able to consider foster care placement within the context of a same-sex union.” Gavin said
The Department of Human Services has said that they were unaware of that both of the agencies were turning away LGBTQ couples and in a statement they condemned it.
Spokeswoman Heather Keafer said it was “deeply concerning” given the urgent need for homes.
“We actively recruit individuals that represent the diversity of our city, including diversity of sexual orientation, genders, race, religions, and communities to provide quality foster care to Philadelphia’s most vulnerable children and youth,” Keafer said.
The revelation has sparked a review of all the 26 agencies that the department works with.