Pork…or Parents?

Call us crazy, but given the choice between having parents and having bacon, we think a foster kid would choose the former.

Unfortunately, Contemporary Family Services (CFS), a private company authorized by the state of Maryland to place foster children with families, doesn't agree. CFS has refused a foster care license to Tashima Crudup, a practicing Muslim, because she does not allow pork products in her home. During a home study interview following 50 hours of mandated training for prospective foster parents, CFS representatives also asked Crudup inappropriate, baseless questions, including whether her husband would take a second wife.

In its written denial, the sole ground for CFS's denial of licensing Crudup was her "explicit request to prohibit pork products within [her] home environment … indicat[ing] that there could potentially be a discrepancy between [her] expectations and the needs and personal views of a child." This denial came despite Crudup's unequivocal assurances that she would honor the individual religious beliefs of any child in her care, even take them to services of their own choice. In fact, Crudup stated that she would have no problem if a child ate pork outside the home, such as at school or a restaurant.

CFS's denial smacks of illegal religious discrimination, so the ACLU of Maryland helped Crudup file a complaint with the Baltimore City Community Relations Commission. It's worth noting that the Baltimore City Code prohibits any "health or welfare agency" from "discriminat[ing] against any person by refusing, denying, or withholding from him (or her) any of the services, programs, benefits, facilities, or privileges" provided by the agency. "Discrimination" is defined as "any difference in the treatment of an individual or person because of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, marital status, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression."

On Friday, the Baltimore Sun opined about the Crudup case, writing:

Under [the CFS] standard, Orthodox Jews, who also eschew pork, couldn't become foster parents either; nor could many Catholics, who refuse meat on Friday, Hindus, for whom the cow is sacred, or vegetarians (not to mention vegans). Since nobody has ever suggested that any of these groups are unfit to be foster parents because of their dietary habits, it is safe to wonder whether Ms. Crudup and Mr. Moore have been singled out simply because of anti-Muslim bigotry.

The city community relations commission needs to conduct a thorough investigation into these charges; at the very least, it ought to make clear that religion is not a disqualification to be a foster parent. The state human services department should also look into the matter to see whether licensing agencies like Contemporary Family Services are complying with its own anti-discrimination regulations and what sanctions are appropriate for those that aren't. There are thousands of kids across the state who desperately need stable homes and loving caretakers; that's what foster care and adoption officials should be focusing on, not on which meat dish gets put on the table every night.

So pork…or parents? We're disappointed we have to address this question at all.

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