Catholic Charities, the charitable arm of the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, announced this week that it has ended its city contract to provide foster care and adoption services for D.C. residents, saying it could not comply with rules requiring that it place children with same-sex couples.
“Although Catholic Charities has an 80-year legacy of high quality service to the vulnerable in our nation’s capital, the D.C. government informed Catholic Charities that the agency would be ineligible to serve as a foster care provider due to the impending D.C. same-sex marriage law,” the group said in a statement posted on its web site Feb. 17. “This is the only program Catholic Charities anticipates will be impacted by the law.”
The city’s same-sex marriage law is expected to take effect on March 3 upon its completion of a congressional review.
Existing city laws allow individual gays and lesbians as well as same-sex couples to adopt children and participate in city-run foster care programs.
Erik Salmi, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Washington, said he did not know whether the existing rules required foster care and adoption programs operated by Catholic Charities to place children with same-sex couples.
A spokesperson for the D.C. Child & Family Services Agency, which oversees city foster care and adoption programs, could not immediately be reached.
According to the archdiocesan statement, as of Feb. 1, Catholic Charities transferred its foster care and public adoption program in D.C. to the National Center for Children & Families, a private charitable group that has long provided social services in the District and Maryland.
“With a priority on ensuring continuity of care for the foster families and children, Catholic Charities worked closely with D.C.’s Child & Family Services Agency to seamlessly transition the program to the NCCF,” says the statement. “This transition includes seven staff, 43 children and their biological families, as well as 35 foster families.”
Officials with the archdiocese expressed concern last year that the Catholic organization might have to withdraw from as many as 20 city contracts through which it provides social services to hundreds of local people, including homeless shelters, as a result of the same-sex marriage law. Officials said their main concern was the new law would require Catholic Charities to provide health insurance benefits to their employees’ same-sex married spouses, which would be contrary to their religious teachings against same-sex marriage.
D.C. City Council members David Catania (I-At Large) and Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), who shepherded the same-sex marriage bill through the City Council, have urged Catholic Charities to adopt an employee benefits arrangement used by other Catholic organizations that avoids the need to recognize same-sex relationship.
The arrangement, which is used by Georgetown University, provides health insurance benefits to another person designated by the employee as a family member or cohabitating individual without the designation as a spouse.
When asked by the Washington Post if Catholic Charities was considering such an arrangement or another means of offering employee benefits without characterizing recipients as married same-sex couples, the organization’s president, Edward Orzechowski replied, “both.”