A Tax-Funded Child Welfare Agency in Philadelphia Wants to Turn Away Same-Sex Couples Like Us

Editor's Note: On Nov. 6, a federal appeals court will hear a challenge by Catholic Social Services to the city of Philadelphia's requirement that tax-funded child welfare organizations accept all qualified parents, including same-sex couples. Shannon Graves and Paige Davis are following the case closely for good reason: They are same-sex foster parents who often take care of LGBTQ kids. 

When we learned that a tax-funded foster care agency will not accept same-sex couples, we were hurt and wondered what this does to young people in need of a loving home. If faith-based child welfare agencies that contract with the city of Philadelphia, like Catholic Social Services, are allowed to discriminate against same-sex foster parents, that means kids will lose out on families that can provide the care and support they need. We know this as foster parents of eight kids since 2015.

We’ve always prided ourselves on being a resource for someone in need — whether that need is a few dollars to buy a meal or simply a loving hug. A few years ago, Cyndi Lauper shared a startling statistic from the True Colors Fund in a TV commercial: 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness in America are LGBTQ. As a same-sex couple, learning this fact changed our lives forever. We’ve always loved kids and decided that the best way to help was to open our home up to them.

Since becoming licensed foster parents in 2015, we’ve fostered eight children on a long-term basis, with up to five kids at any given time. These kids ranged in age from infants to 20-year-olds, but the majority of them have been teenagers, who often face the hardest time finding foster families. We also provide emergency, short-term care for just a couple of week as longer-term placements are found. These days, we foster Anna,* who came to us a day before her 17th birthday, and Andrew,* who is 22 months old. We’ve helped her on her way, including helping her learn how to get a job.

Many of the kids we’ve fostered have said that no one’s ever even asked them how their day was. We work to teach our foster kids how to grow up, and they’re very responsive to discussing our expectations for them together as a family. Anna feeds off our pride in her achievements, and we strive to respond to her in the way that we would have wanted from our own parents. She recently told us that she wishes she could’ve been placed with us when she first entered the foster system — before she was, as she says, “broken” by previous bad experiences.

We have to tell the young people we’ve fostered that they aren’t broken. Suggesting that same-sex couples are unsuitable to care for children is not just hurtful to us, but it reinforces the worst ideas that many LGBTQ young people have about themselves — that they have less worth than other people.

Child welfare advocates know that agencies must prioritize finding qualified foster families. No one should ever be turned away from being a prospective foster parent because they are LGBTQ or otherwise fail an agency’s religious litmus test. The quality of Philadelphia kids’ lives depends on it.

We often think about what one of our former foster teens told us: “I was my best self at your home.” It’s why we open our home to foster teens — to give them the support they need to change their lives for the better, regardless of how long they’re in our care. The city of Philadelphia did the right thing by requiring all its foster agencies to abide by its nondiscrimination policies. We hope the federal appeals court agrees that public money cannot go to agencies who discriminate against foster parents like us simply because we’re a same-sex couple.

* The names of the children have been changed to protect their privacy.

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Dr. Timothy Leary

I don't care if she is a lesbian or not, with all those tattoos I would not let that woman adopt any children either.

Howard Comfort Jr

A mean and judgemental comment.

Anonymous

Well, I don’t know what kind of doctor you are, but clearly, you are very unprofessional and the exact kind of discriminatory person this article discusses. Tattoos are no indication of what kind of person a person in general of a foster partner is. Your comment is completely idiotic and shows how clearly ignorant and uneducated you are. I feel sorry for your patients and hope you aren’t as discriminatory in your practice and towards them as you are here. If you are, you shouldn’t be a practicing medical provider.

Dr. Timothy Leary

I don't care what anybody says, trolling is more fun than cutting chicken's heads off.

Shannon G

Dr? That can’t be right. As much as I would LOVE to stoop down to your little Ievel, I won’t. This women with “all these tattoos” is way better than that.

You take care of yourself “Dr”

Anonymous

People like you who sit on a computer or phone all day and live to write hateful comments crack me up. Let’s get facts straight, shall we? It makes no difference what a person has on their skin(nor the color for that matter), who they love( and marry), what any one thinks of them behind a computer screen, or any of the other things that hateful individuals put out there to try to discredit. The FACTS are that love is needed for these children and if there are qualified parents out there willing to give It, LET THEM. Personal beliefs have no business in TAX FUNDED entities that are holding up the betterment of our future, the future of this country. Get off your high horse and open your freaking eyes, if you can get from behind the computer screen first. This couple is MORE THAN QUALIFIED to love on the children who so desperately need them as indicated in the 8 children they have helped so far. Let’s continue to support their selflessness and NOT impede It.

AMBER

With those judgemental words I wouldn’t let you care for any kids either. You must not be very successful in what you do. Only people who are not comfortable in their own skin will judge another person by outer covers

Dr. Joseph Goebbels

Ok people, let's just let all the labia lickers adopt children.

Anonymous

Anyone that supports LGBTQ rights should contact your members of Congress today and ask them to add "LGBTQ rights" and "Political Speech" to the federal Civil Rights Act. It should be added to the "Public Accomodations" part. This will essentially force the federal government to police this form of discrimination. This enforcement division will fine them $11,000 per violation plus potential prison time for those that discriminate. If enough people contact Congress they will add you to these protected groups.

Agent Howard Safir

It takes huge hearts to open up your home and hearts to anyone. All kids deserve to have a loving home no matter what sexual orientation the parents identify with. Dr. Leary is still taking LSD, and he comments are a reflection of a person on drugs with no life. He could have benefited from a loving home.

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