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The foster care crisis needs our help

In an increasingly secular world, is it still possible for faith-based organizations to retain their deeply held religious convictions and peacefully co-labor alongside their counterparts who hold to very different points of view?

Courtesy of Focus on the Family

Tragically, Bethany Christian Services, a longtime evangelical foster care and adoption agency, doesn’t think so.

After more than a three-quarter century legacy of advocating for the best interest of children, the organization recently announced plans to expand their services to include same-sex placements.

Having respected and partnered with this agency for over 30 years, it’s a heartbreaking turn of events. 

Bethany has grown weary of using donor dollars to defend their faith-based placement criteria and losing repeatedly in court. They’ve been bullied into making this decision. And the harassment they’ve been enduring has been completely unnecessary. 

Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, recently observed, “Bethany Christian Services should not have to choose between holding to their deeply held religious convictions and serving children and families. No government should tell any ministry how to run their ministry, let alone violate biblical principles.” 

My entire career has been spent advocating for children in foster care, much of it in state government, and I’ve discovered this truth: The more agencies working to place children with forever families the better. 

I’ve partnered with government agencies, community organizations and faith-based groups who are all producing phenomenal results for the vulnerable children in the foster care system. 

So, why can’t each type of agency exist in harmony?

Because possessing the “correct” political ideology has become more important than the quality of work being performed. And those in greatest need end up suffering.

It’s no longer about whether foster and adoption agencies have helped children find loving homes in an ethical manner, it’s about whether or not these agencies adopt the prevailing political position of the day.

But children should never be pawns played by politicians. They deserve what is best – not what is politically correct. The foster care system, and the children it serves, need all the help they can get. There is room for secular and religious groups alike to recruit families and place children in loving homes.

Faith-based organizations have long been the backbone of compassionate service to those in need. Think for a minute about the last time you saw a natural disaster cripple a community, a homeless person seeking shelter, or a patient who is terminal pleading for more time. 

You’ll notice religious groups of all kinds are often the first to help. 

But if today’s political secular elite gets its way, these organizations won’t be allowed to exist, much less help. Look no further than Rev. Franklin Graham’s organization Samaritan’s Purse nobly serving the sick during the height of the pandemic. Their thanks? Being pushed out of New York City.

With Bethany’s announcement, the same trend is taking root in the child welfare system. 

Understand this decision was made despite studies consistently showing by every measurable metric that children do better in life when they’re raised by a loving mom and dad. That is what foster care and adoption are all about; giving kids what they deserve.

Yet, to even cite this independent and reputable research is now considered bigoted. To say moms and dads matter is considered hateful. To focus on what’s best for kids is considered discriminatory.

The foster care system is in crisis, buckling under the weight of over 400,000 children needing placement. As the elites argue about which foster care agencies get to keep their doors open, children longing for homes are paying the price.

Existing agencies with outstanding track records are forced to spend time and resources in court fighting for their right to exist. They’re being backed into a corner, trapped until they choose between compromising their convictions and placing children with LGBT people or closing their doors altogether. According to some, and increasingly so, there is no room for their help in the foster care crisis.

This is untenable. 

Because the fate of vulnerable children hangs in the balance, faith-based organizations must be welcomed not shunned nor forced to surrender the very convictions and principles that led them to begin their sacrificial work.

Dr. Sharen Ford, director of foster care and adoption at Focus on the Family, has worked in the child welfare field for over 30 years, including as manager of permanency services for the Colorado Department of Human Services and as a former president of the National Association of State Adoption Programs.

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