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PFP Expands Efforts to Support LGBTQ Foster Youth and LGBTQ Foster Parents

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Working with the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, PFP has held eight information sessions over the past couple of years to help recruit LGBTQ adults and other affirming communities to become foster parents, especially for LGBTQ youth.

Our next two recruitment events are set for Monday, March 11th at the Lovett Library in Mt. Airy and on Thursday, April 18th at the William Way Center in Center City. Both will be held from 6-8pm. Representatives from DHS and foster care agencies will be present with information on requirements, training and licensing process. In addition, we’ll have a panel of current LGBTQ foster parents and former foster youth speak about their experiences and answer questions from the audience.

PFP board member Leigh Braden is putting together a support group for LGBTQ foster parents that will start meeting later this year. If you are a licensed foster parent, please fill out this questionnaire to give us your input on how you’d like the group to run, when it will meet, etc.

In an effort to improve the foster care system as a whole, PFP is proud to sponsor a Speaker Series this spring on Best Practices for LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care. At the first session, an audience of about 100 people heard from a panel of LGBTQ foster youth. (Pictured)

The next speaker in the series will be Shauna Lucadamo, the LGBTQ Affairs Project Manager from Allegheny County DHS. That talk is scheduled for Thursday, March 14th from 2:00-3:30pm at the University of the Sciences. CLE and CEU credits are available. Register at this link.

PFP Executive Director Stephanie Haynes serves on the Philadelphia Youth Residential Placement Task Force and has attended several meetings this spring to help the group come up with recommendations on ways to improve the safety and education of youth in placement as well as alternatives. Stephanie’s role is to ensure the needs and voices of LGBTQ youth are included in the discussion and the solutions offered.

There’s no new update yet, but in case you missed it in 2018, PFP is represented by the ACLU as an intervenor in the Fulton vs. City of Philadelphia lawsuit involving Catholic Social Services. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals heard the plaintiff’s appeal in November of 2018. We are awaiting their ruling. 

Finally, PFP is working with the national LGBTQ family group Family Equality Council to respond to the Trump Administration’s directive from HHS to a foster care agency in South Carolina, allowing them to discriminate based on religion when serving foster parents.

In response to that directive, PFP has assisted FEC in getting Pennsylvania members of Congress to sign on to letters to HHS Secretary Azar opposing this move. Sen. Casey signed the letter from Senators and Reps. Dean and Scanlon signed the House letter.

Now the House Ways and Means Committee is going to be holding hearings about the actions of HHS. Philadelphia Congressmen Dwight Evans and Brendan Boyle are on the committee, so want to make sure they get written testimony from Philadelphians on the importance of an inclusive, non-discriminatory foster care system. PFP will be submitting testimony, but if you have a positive or negative story to share about your experience, please share it with FEC here.

ACLU Asks Court to Hear From Child Advocates and LGBTQ Families in Foster Parents Case

ACLU Asks Court to Hear From Child Advocates and LGBTQ Families in Foster Parents Case

June 08, 2018

PHILADELPHIA – The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion in federal court today to intervene in a pending lawsuit brought by Catholic Social Services (CSS) against the city of Philadelphia over its policy barring agencies from discriminating against same-sex couples. The ACLU represents the Support Center for Child Advocates, a nonprofit organization that provides legal representation and services to children in the foster care system, and Philadelphia Family Pride (PFP), a membership organization of LGBTQ parents and prospective parents.

Earlier this year, the city ended its practice of referring foster children to CSS because the agency refuses to license qualified same-sex couples to be foster parents or to place children with same-sex couples, which prompted CSS to respond with its lawsuit in the federal district court. The ACLU’s motion to intervene argues that the children and families served by Child Advocates and PFP would be harmed if CSS is successful in its lawsuit and asks the court for permission to participate in the lawsuit.

“The heart of this case is what is in the best interests of children,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Loving, supportive same-sex couples are willing to open their homes to kids in need, but CSS’s policy gives them one less avenue to make that happen. It would be a tremendous loss for our children if agencies were permitted to turn away good families based on failure to meet religious criteria.”

A motion to intervene allows someone who could be directly impacted by its outcome to join the lawsuit as a party. If the court grants the motion, the ACLU will be able to argue in court on behalf of Child Advocates and PFP to explain why a ruling in favor of CSS would harm children in the foster care system and prospective families who seek to care for them.

“Children in foster care in Philadelphia need every possible family that is ready, willing, and able to care for them,” said Frank Cervone, executive director of the Support Center for Child Advocates. “The Support Center for Child Advocates is entering the case to advocate for the best interests of all of Philadelphia’s children. We are in this for the kids. They need a voice in this dispute.”

CSS has asked the court for a preliminary injunction directing the city to continue to refer kids to CSS while the litigation proceeds. A hearing on CSS’s request for a preliminary injunction is currently scheduled for June 18.

“When families make the decision to open their hearts and homes to a child in need, they should not have to face discrimination by the child placing agencies,” said Stephanie Haynes, executive director of Philadelphia Family Pride.  “Families that are prepared to help a child should be welcomed and supported, not turned away based on an agency’s religious disapproval.”

“When governments contract with private agencies to provide public child welfare services and pay them taxpayer dollars to do it, they may not permit them to turn away qualified families based on religious objections to those families,” said Leslie Cooper of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project. “That would violate the constitution.”

The Support Center for Child Advocates and Philadelphia Family Pride are represented by Leslie Cooper of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, Mary Catherine Roper and Molly Tack-Hooper of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Fred T. Magaziner and Catherine V. Wigglesworth of Dechert LLP, and Frank P. Cervone of the Support Center for Child Advocates.

A copy of the motion filed today by the ACLU is available at this link.

Masterpiece Cakeshop – What it Means for You (Spoiler Alert: Not Much)

by Lee Carpenter 
wedding cakeThis week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. That’s the famous “gay wedding cake” case, in which a very religious baker refused to bake a wedding cake for a Colorado same-sex couple.The couple filed a complaint with the state agency responsible for enforcing Colorado’s LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination law. They won, and the baker appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying that his right to the free exercise of his religion had been violated by the state.

So the baker won. And unfortunately, that’s led to a lot of folks on both sides claiming that all of America’s haters now have a “license to discriminate” as long as they cloak their animosity towards us in religious clothing.

That’s just not true. In fact, this ruling resolved none of the major issues in the case.

We didn’t know before this opinion whether a religious baker could refuse to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. We still don’t.

We didn’t know whether baking a cake is the kind of artistic expression that makes it protected by the First Amendment. We still don’t know the answer to that either, because the Supreme Court didn’t rule on those things.

All the opinion said was that in this case, some officials sounded like they were being disrespectful and dismissive of the baker’s religious belief, and that that was unacceptable.

All of the big issues in this case will have to be resolved at some point, but for now, the Court has decided that this isn’t the right case to make big, bold pronouncements about how the balance between religion and LGBT civil rights gets resolved.

So for now, go about your business, and go to whatever business you like.

Lee Carpenter is a Temple University Law School Professor. She and her partner Tiffany Palmer live in Mt. Airy with their 11 year-old kid.