Two Illinois Catholic Charities agencies have suspended licensing new foster care and adoptive parents following the state's enactment of a civil unions law.
Glenn Van Cura, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Joliet, told The Advocate that his office is not accepting applications for new foster care or adoptive parents pending further clarification from the governor and attorney general's office.
"What we want to make clear is that according to our beliefs, with any cohabitating couple, whether homosexual or heterosexual, we don't refer to licensing. It's just part of our social teaching," Van Cura said.
Single individuals, whether gay or straight, have been eligible to become foster or adoptive parents, however. "We don't ask, nor is it any of our business," Van Cura said of a single applicant's sexual orientation.
In a letter this week to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Catholic Charities of Peoria CEO Tricia C. Fox wrote that the suspension could be lifted if the state amended the civil unions law to allow religious services to refer same-sex couples elsewhere.
The move by the two dioceses comes a week after Catholic Charities of Rockford announced it would halt its state adoption and foster care services because of the new civil unions law.
"Catholic Charities and other religious agencies asked the state of Illinois to allow their agencies to refer such couples to other adoption and foster care agencies so as to not violate the moral teachings of their faith," diocese spokeswoman Penny Wiegert said at a press conference last week. "Tragically, that did not happen. The state legislature failed to pass legislation or a written agreement that would exempt Catholic Charities from the application of the civil unions law. Even with the tireless efforts of the state's Catholic Charities directors ... the exemption failed."
Catholic Charities handles about 20% of the state's foster care and adoptions and is paid about $30 million a year for its services.
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services spokesman Kendall Marlowe told the Chicago Tribune that his agency is reviewing the letters and is exploring "every option to prevent further disruption in these children's lives.
"This isn't a viable long-term solution," Marlowe said. "Eventually these agencies would attrit their way out of foster care simply because they'd run out of foster homes."