Tag Archives: foster care

U.S. court backs Native American families in ACLU suit

A federal court has dealt another blow to defendants in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit over the rights of Native American families in South Dakota.

Chief Judge Jeffrey Viken denied government officials’ motions for reconsideration of his order to them last March to stop violating the rights of Native American parents and tribes in state child custody proceedings.

“Once again the court has ruled that Native American children, their parents, and their tribes are entitled to fair procedures whenever the state seeks to remove children from their homes, as required by federal law,” Stephen Pevar, an attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, said in a news release.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by the ACLU and Rapid City attorney Dana Hanna on behalf of two South Dakota tribes — the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe — and Native American parents who suffered the loss of their children at the hands of the state.

The lawsuit in part charges that Native American children are being removed from their homes in hearings that lasted as little as 60 seconds, and that parents have no chance to present evidence. Last March, the court agreed with seven of the ACLU’s claims, and ordered the state to:

• Provide parents with adequate notice prior to emergency removal hearings.

• Allow parents to testify at those hearings and present evidence.

• Appoint attorneys to assist parents in these removal  proceedings.

• Allow parents to cross-examine the state’s witnesses in the hearings.

• Require state courts to base their decisions on evidence presented during these hearings.

The court also found that the state violated the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law designed to ensure the security and integrity of Native American tribes and families. Late Friday, Viken issued a ruling rejecting defendants’ motions to reconsider; one final outstanding claim concerns whether the state Department of Social Services is returning Native American children in foster care to their homes as quickly as federal law requires.

The defendants are state Judge Jeff Davis, Pennington County prosecutor Mark Vargo, state director of the Department of Social Services Lynne Valenti and Pennington County DSS employee Luann Van Hunnik.

The lawsuit, Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik, was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota in Rapid City.

Dutch lesbians raising Turkish boy go into hiding

A Dutch lesbian couple have gone into hiding with their foster son after the boy’s biological parents said on television in Turkey that they object to the pair taking care of their child.

The matter is threatening to overshadow an official visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the Netherlands next week. Lodewijk Asscher, the Dutch vice prime minister, told reporters that the issue is an internal Dutch matter and that political interference from Turkey is “inappropriate.”

The 9-year-old boy identified by his first name, Yunus, was removed from his biological parents’ care – in the Netherlands – while he was still a baby, and eventually placed in the care of the lesbian couple, who live in The Hague.

His biological mother, Nurgul Azeroglu, appeared on a Turkish television program earlier this month and called on Erdogan to intervene in the case. She acknowledged having accidentally dropped the child from a poorly fastened carrying bag once – apparently part of the reason he was removed from her care.

Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported that two other children were also to be taken away from the family in 2008, but they then traveled to Turkey to prevent that from happening.

Prominent Turkish politicians have recently spoken out against children of Turkish ancestry being raised by Christians, gays, or others whose values are rejected by their biological parents.

Asscher praised the foster parents for taking on a “child in danger” and defended Dutch social service policies.

“The selection of a foster family in the Netherlands is a careful process,” he said. “We don’t choose foster parents on the basis of race or heritage, but on whether a child is in good hands with them.”

Child social services in The Hague said there was no specific threat against Yunus or his foster parents, but he has been kept home from school as a precaution since the interview aired.

The Hague Youth Services Agency has decided it is better for Yunus and his foster parents “to stay at another address for a time, partly in connection with the visit of the prime minister next week,” spokeswoman Tanja van Dijk said in a telephone interview with national broadcaster NOS. “For safety, and also because of the quiet that both Yunus and his foster parents of course now need.”

Asscher, who repeated several times at his weekly news conference that Yunus had been “in danger” before he was taken into foster care, said it is “exceptionally sad” that the boy and his foster family are now in hiding.

“It’s not right. People who are willing to take care of somebody else’s child deserve our admiration,” he said.

Ill. judge rules against Catholic group

An Illinois judge ruled that the state can stop working with Catholic Charities on adoptions and foster care placements – something the state decided to do in July after the not-for-profit agency refused to recognize Illinois’ new civil unions law.

In his ruling, Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Schmidt said that no one, including Catholic Charities, has a legal right to a contract with the state government. He did not address the more sensitive issue of whether a state contractor that refuses to serve gays and lesbians is violating the state’s new civil unions law.

The state Department of Children and Family Services ended $30 million in contracts with Catholic Charities in four church dioceses in July, but Schmidt had temporarily reinstated them while he considered the case.

Illinois authorities had said they were canceling the contracts because Catholic Charities’ practice of referring unmarried couples to other agencies was discriminatory, a violation of the state’s civil union law.

Catholic Charities argued it was exempt under civil unions and another state law that protect religious practices.

A spokeswoman for the state attorney general, who represented DCFS, said the decision “will allow the state to continue focusing on what’s best for the care and well-being of children.”

– from WiG and AP reports

Catholic group ends adoption over civil unions law

A Catholic diocese in northern Illinois said it’s ending its state-funded adoption and foster-care program rather than comply with a new law that would require it to place children with gay or unmarried couples. Officials said other dioceses would decide soon whether to follow suit.

Officials from the Rockford Diocese said they were forced to terminate state contracts worth $7.5 million after lawmakers failed to pass an amendment exempting religious groups from provisions of the state’s new civil unions law, which will let gay and lesbian couples form civil unions, a rough equivalent to marriage. The law took effect June 1.

Catholic Charities wanted to be allowed to refer unmarried or gay couples to other agencies. Diocesan officials said allowing such placements would violate teachings of the Catholic faith.

The Civil Rights Agenda, a gay rights advocacy group, issued a statement calling the diocese’s decision “a sad display of bigotry” and said religious freedom “is granted only when the religious agency is not funded by taxpayer dollars.”

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services officials said there are enough private child welfare agencies to take over foster placement and adoptions for the roughly 300 children in the Rockford Diocese’s foster-care program.

Ill. diocese quits state foster-care program over gay rights

A Catholic diocese in northern Illinois said it will end its state-funded adoption and foster-care program rather than comply with a new law that would require it to place children with gay or unmarried couples.  Officials said other dioceses would decide quickly whether to follow suit.

Officials from the Rockford Diocese said they were forced to terminate state contracts worth $7.5 million after lawmakers failed to pass an amendment exempting religious groups from provisions of the state’s new civil unions law, which will let gay and lesbian couples form civil unions, a rough equivalent to marriage. The law takes effect June 1.

Catholic Charities wanted to be allowed to refer unmarried or gay couples to other agencies, as it has for years.

Diocese officials said that allowing such adoptions or foster placements would violate teachings of the Catholic faith.

“The law of our land has always guaranteed its people freedom of religion,” diocese spokeswoman Penny Wiegert said. “Denying this exemption to faith-based agencies leads one to believe that our lawmakers prefer laws that guarantee freedom from religion.”

The Civil Rights Agenda, a gay rights advocacy group, issued a statement calling the diocese’s decision “a sad display of bigotry” and said religious freedom “is granted only when the religious agency is not funded by taxpayer dollars.”

“I am mindful that this is a sad day for the many foster families and parents involved and the children who are in the care of Catholic Charities,” TCRA Executive Director Anthony Martinez said.

Illinois Department of Children and Family Services officials said there are enough private child welfare agencies to take over foster placement and adoptions for the roughly 300 children in the Rockford Diocese’s foster-care program when it ends June 1.

“Catholic Charities in Rockford has served children and families with compassion for many years, and we thank them for their service,” DCFS Director Erwin McEwen said in a written statement. “We will take every step necessary to ensure that the children are well cared for and the foster families are well supported during this transition.”

Rockford and four other Catholic dioceses in Illinois are among 45 private agencies that provide state-funded adoption and foster-care services, DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe said. The dioceses provide services to about 2,300 of the 15,000 children in the foster-care system, while two other religious groups provide care to about 1,000 children, Marlowe said.

He said some of the 42 caseworkers in the Rockford Diocese could be hired by new agencies.

Catholic charity groups place children only with married couples or single people – not with couples living together. They consider couples in civil unions to be unmarried and therefore not eligible to adopt or provide foster care through their programs.

But refusing to place children with gay couples could open the charities to lawsuits or lead state government to cut off funding.

Leaders of the Catholic groups have said they aren’t trying to keep gay couples from adopting or taking in foster children – just that it’s a matter of having those couples work with other groups.

Catholic officials said they hope the Rockford Diocese’s decision will persuade the General Assembly to reconsider such an exemption.

But if it doesn’t, other dioceses could decide to withdraw from the state program, said Bob Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois.

“We’re not bluffing. This is a serious issue,” said Gilligan, who said other dioceses will decide on the fate of their programs within a week to 10 days after the new state law takes effect. “No diocese is going to willingly put a child in a same-sex household.”

Catholic Charities ends DC foster-care program

WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington’s Catholic Archdiocese has ended its 80-year-old foster-care program in advance of a same-sex marriage law set to take effect soon in the District of Columbia.

Catholic Charities transferred its entire program of 43 children, 35 families and seven staff members to another provider, rather than license same-sex couples. The group says same-sex marriage violates its religious teaching.

Officials say there were no problems with the transfer to the National Center for Children and Families.

Catholic Charities runs more than 20 social service programs for the city. President and CEO Edward Orzechowski says the group hopes to structure benefits packages in other programs to continue working with the city.

That could include finding ways to avoid paying benefits to same-sex couples.