In their early history, many Catholic Charities’ agencies served as orphanages to care for the most vulnerable children in their communities. Today, Catholic Charities continues this tradition of caring for children through foster care and adoption services. Earlier this month, there was an article in The Chicago Tribune about religious organizations, such as Catholic Charities, that contract with the State of Illinois to provide foster care and adoption services, and their practices with regard to same-sex couples seeking to become foster or adoptive parents.
Approximately 16,000 children statewide are currently wards of the state under the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Catholic Charities of Illinois’ agencies across the state currently provide foster care services to about 2,500 of these children on any given day and have been partners with the State of Illinois for many years to provide child welfare and other social services to those in need. In light of the recently passed law to allow for civil unions in Illinois, there have been discussions as to whether Catholic Charities and other religious organizations should be required to act counter to their religious beliefs in order to continue caring for vulnerable children using state funds.
There could be attempts in the very near future to address this question, whether by legislation, administrative action by the State of Illinois, or even possible judicial action in the courts. This raises important issues of religious freedom for Catholic Charities in fulfilling its mission to serve the poor and most vulnerable in our state.
The Catholic Conference of Illinois, as the public policy office for the Catholic Church in the state, continues to be a part of efforts to preserve Catholic Charities’ ability to serve all those in need, especially abused and neglected children.
For an update on other legislative issues affecting the Catholic community go to www.catholicconferenceofillinois.org.