Separating Families

Fr. John Bonavitacola
Dear Friends,

The City of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia) is showing itself to be less than loving. The City recently decided not to renew its contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) Foster Care Program even though it rated CSS as number two in quality of services among the 27 Foster Care agencies the City contracts with. The reason for not renewing the contract with CSS, even though the City admits it has a shortage of foster families, is that CSS adheres to the Church’s teachings on marriage and the family and therefore does not place foster children with same-sex couples. The City has not received any complaints from same-sex couples about CSS and CSS policy states that it will refer same-sex couples to other Foster Care agencies.

It should be obvious that the policy of CSS Philadelphia does not cause harm to same-sex couples as they can work with dozens of other Foster Care agencies to receive foster children. But it clearly does harm children: more children who will have to stay in group homes since the hundreds of Catholic foster families are no longer eligible to receive them. But the other side will argue that placing children in homes where the parents do not support same-sex marriage harms the children worse. So better they languish in group homes than be exposed to Catholic teaching on marriage and the family. If orphaned and abused children have to go without homes, so be it, seems to be the attitude of City officials.

In the meantime, the Mayor and the City Council have a newfound appreciation for family life. The Mayor of Philadelphia danced in his office when the City became a “sanctuary city”. Along with that he is also decrying the current practice of separating minors from their parents pending an Adjudication hearing before an Immigration Judge. Keeping foster children from foster families while decrying keeping immigrant children from their families doesn’t seem to be in anyway consistent with supporting the overall well-being of children.

While the Mayor and City Council have stated their strong opposition to the current Border Policy separating minors from their families, the City’s Department of Human Services had no problem with separating one special needs foster child from his long-term foster family. The foster mother said in a statement: I kissed him goodbye and told him how much I loved him. But every time the social worker tried to lead Doe Foster Child #1 out of our home, he would wriggle free and come running back to hold me. Doe Foster Child #1 finally had to be carried crying from our home. I watched from the window in my house as my adult son helped carry Doe Foster Child #1 out. While doing so, my son kept assuring Doe Foster Child #1 that it would be ok, that he would like his new family, and that we would always love him.

Shortly after the boy was removed from Doe Foster Mother #1’s home, she received a call from a social worker informing her that an emergency situation had occurred at boy’s new home and that he and all of the other children living there had been removed from that new home. She was asked if she would like to have the boy back, to which she replied: “Bring my son home.” Later that same day, she was informed that the city’s Department of Human Services had denied her request because she worked with Catholic Social Services. (As the boy continued to regress and no suitable home could be found, the boy was eventually reunited with his foster family.) Once again we are witnessing children being used as pawns to serve the ideology or political proclivity of adults. This is also another example of trying to figure out in the new reality we live in with diametrically opposed views, how do we all get along. Having one side take the ball and go home is not the way to play the game and get along.

While many foster homes sit empty some of the foster parents who are being denied children because of their connection to Catholic Social Services have asked a Federal Court to end the new policy of the City. Let’s pray for the sake of the children that happens.

Love,

Fr. John B.

PS: Recently someone created a fraudulent Gmail account using my name and used it to send out requests for money or gift cards. Please know that I would not solicit money using email. You would at least first hear it from the pulpit or read it in the bulletin. I have only two email accounts: frjohn@olmctempe.com and frbonavitacola@diocesephoenix.org . If you get an email from me you think is fraudulent just call the Parish Office and report it.

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