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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services in an attempt to end the highly successful public-private partnership between the state and St. Vincent’s Catholic Charities. St. Vincent’s specializes in finding adoptive and foster homes for sibling groups and older children who are often harder to place. Now, they’ve been targeted by the ACLU because they place their precious charges only in homes with a married mother and father, the familial structure they believe is best for nurturing traumatized children.

The ACLU is representing a same-sex couple who could have adopted through any number of agencies which do not require prospective parents to be a married mother and father. Targeting St. Vincent’s is perhaps part of a strategic challenge to a Michigan law passed three years ago that specifically allows faith-based adoption agencies to place children only in families with a married mother and father. The impetus for passing this law was what had happened in Massachusetts: After the state made it illegal to only place children with traditionally married couples, Catholic adoption services across the state closed their doors.

Afraid of losing the important contributions of faith-based agencies and their unsurpassed ability to find homes for the hardest-to-place children, Michigan, Texas and several other states have passed laws allowing these agencies to stay open without compromising their religious principles.

In Michigan, faith-inspired adoption agencies like St. Vincent’s are extremely successful in matching older children, those with special needs, and sibling groups with loving families. Their standards are strict, as the children in their care are especially in need of love and stability. Even with their strict standards, or perhaps because of them, St. Vincent’s was able to place more foster children than seven out of eight other agencies in the area. They also provide the families with ongoing support and invaluable services that are hard to obtain elsewhere.

But none of this makes any difference to the ACLU. They want St. Vincent’s and other Christian and Catholic agencies out of the adoption business altogether, never mind that the result would be fewer opportunities for happiness for the children who need it most.

Clearly, the ACLU is looking at this issue strictly through the lens of adult feelings, blinded to the needs of children. Although same-sex couples might be turned down by an agency like St. Vincent’s, they have plenty of other options. Only about 30 percent of the agencies in the state are Christian or Catholic anyway, and when agencies like St. Vincent’s find themselves unable to offer their services to a same-sex couple, they are required by Michigan law to refer them to an agency that will. These couples won’t be discouraged from adopting; but the children served by agencies like St. Vincent’s, on the other hand, have far fewer options and much more at stake.

Having gone through the process of adoption with a daughter who is the joy of our family, it is hard for me to understand why the ACLU or anyone else would deliberately target the very people and agencies who are responsible for so much happiness in the lives of the children they place and the parents who bring them home.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie is a policy adviser for The Catholic Association.

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