Michigan:
A State in Crisis

Each year in Michigan alone, over 600 children “age out” of the foster system, meaning that at the age of 18 they are on their own, leaving them without the family, resources, or support they need to make it as they start their lives as adults. This number is on the rise, with special needs and minority youth particularly vulnerable to ending up back on the streets in poverty, without an education. But in 2019, the Attorney General of Michigan signed an agreement with the ACLU attempting to shut down the state’s partnerships with faith-based foster and adoption agencies, putting at risk thousands of children who desperately need homes. 

In April 2019, foster families filed a new lawsuit against Michigan and federal Health & Human Services to allow faith-based adoption agencies to continue what they do best: uniting children with loving families. Becket is representing a former foster child, the parents of five adopted children with special needs, and St. Vincent Catholic Charities in this new case.

 

Families like the Bucks rely on St. Vincent

  • St. Vincent helped Melissa and Chad Buck adopt five children with special needs and continues to provide them with loving support and resources.

  • St. Vincent is one of the oldest and most effective foster and adoption agencies in Michigan. St. Vincent has served children and families for over 65 years, helping those in crisis find hope and safety both in their own homes and with new families. Like other private agencies, St. Vincent recruits and supports foster and adoptive families, many of whom would not become foster families without St. Vincent’s help. 

  • Keeping families together is an important part of foster care and adoption. St. Vincent is particularly good at finding safe and nurturing homes for sibling groups, older children, minority children, and children with special needs. Thanks to St. Vincent, Melissa and Chad Buck were the first to receive the call that the biological sibling of one of their children needed a home—and without St. Vincent, that would not have been possible. St. Vincent brought the Buck family together and continually serves families in need.

  • In 2017, St. Vincent recruited more new adoptive families than roughly 90 percent of the other agencies in its service area. St. Vincent's religious mission gives it a unique position to recruit families who value its religious beliefs—families who might not otherwise have been aware of or considered adoption through the foster care system. 

  • St. Vincent excels at continuing to provide counseling and support to families after placement. Many of the children served by St. Vincent have undergone the trauma of physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or have experienced the illness or death of a parent. St. Vincent provides individual, family, and group therapy, monthly visits to the foster home, visitation with birth parents and other relatives, and monitoring and referrals to community resources for additional treatment and support.

  • Faith-based agencies like St. Vincent help break the cycle of addiction, abuse and homelessness for these kids. Foster children need all hands on deck, people of all beliefs and backgrounds, working together to make it happen.

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St. Vincent’s Religious Mission Has Never Prevented Anyone from Fostering or Adopting a Child

Part of the process followed by private foster and adoption agencies involves performing in-depth assessments and making written endorsements and recommendations to the state about potential foster families. The state makes the ultimate decision about which families to license, and families licensed with one agency can still adopt kids in the care of another agency.

St. Vincent serves and places children regardless of their race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Because of its religious mission, St. Vincent can’t make written recommendations to the state if doing so would contradict its religious beliefs about marriage. But St. Vincent will always make sure that any family who wants to foster or adopt will be able to do so, whether St. Vincent works with them directly or refers them to one of seven nearby agencies who can better serve their needs. This is a normal part of the foster care and adoption process. Agencies in Michigan refer families elsewhere all the time and for numerous reasons, including if they might live too far away or if the agency has a long waiting lists.

In fact, in part because this system works so well to meet the needs of foster children and potential parents, gay couples have been able to work with other agencies to adopt foster children in St. Vincent’s care in the past.  

St. Vincent's mission is "to share the love of Christ." Their goal is to offer hope and safety to help the people in their care transform their lives. 

 

AG of Michigan attempts to shut down St. Vincent and other faith-based agencies

When the ACLU sued the State of Michigan in 2017 to try to force it to stop working with faith-based foster and adoption agencies, Becket defended several foster children, families, and St. Vincent Catholic Charities to maintain this vital partnership. However, in March 2019 the Attorney General of Michigan and the ACLU signed a settlement agreement to try to stop the state from working with faith-based adoption agencies like St. Vincent simply because of their religious beliefs. In April 2019, Becket filed a new lawsuit defending St. Vincent and foster families in federal court.  

Gay couples have been able to work with other agencies to adopt children in St. Vincent’s care in the past, and the ACLU’s clients in this case could have done the same thing. Despite the availability of these alternatives that would have allowed the ACLU’s clients to serve children, they have refused these services for years so they could continue to justify a needless lawsuit.

Michigan and the ACLU’s actions do nothing to help vulnerable kids. Faith-based agencies like St. Vincent consistently do the best work because of their faith, and the State should welcome all agencies dedicated to helping children and families. The only thing the Attorney General’s actions will accomplish is fewer homes for children in need.

 

Status

When the ACLU sued the State of Michigan in 2017, Becket defended several foster children, families and St. Vincent Catholic Charities to maintain this vital partnership. 

However, the Attorney General of Michigan and the ACLU signed a settlement agreement to try to stop the state from working with faith-based adoption agencies like St. Vincent simply because of their religious beliefs. 

On April 15, 2019, Becket filed a new lawsuit defending St. Vincent and foster families in federal court against Michigan and federal Health & Human Services.    

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Our hearts are open. But the ability of St. Vincent to keep its doors open is now being threatened.