The story being told by some reporters, media commentators and civil union advocates is that recent decisions made by Catholic Charities in five dioceses in Illinois (not to be forced to recruit single sex foster parents who are in civil unions) are careless and thoughtless actions by sectarian agencies resulting in needy children in Illinois being deprived of the services they require and are entitled to. They conclude by attributing the blame for failing to serve these children on the Catholic Charities agencies alone for playing improper political football with state wards who find themselves in need of substitute care services.
That story could not be further from the truth. Since the founding of the Archdiocese of Chicago, well before the Chicago fire, the Catholic Church here in Chicago responded to the call of its faith: abandoned, neglected, abused, homeless and otherwise disadvantaged children were cared for! Even after the Department of Children and Family Services was created in the mid-sixties to provide state tax support and programmatic consistency to counties in Illinois that were responsible for caring for these children, Catholic Charities was chosen to provide much of the actual services, along with other religiously sponsored and community-based agencies.
The evidence and history are crystal clear: Catholic Charities has always and will always care for children when they are presented, found, referred or sent, without regard to race, religion, color, creed, national origin, or sexual preference. They provide love, care, homes, permanency, education, and much more for each and every child.
And the percentage of successes of these children has been unsurpassed. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago provided much of the foster care permanency outcomes that prompted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service to give Illinois an award in the mid-nineties for surpassing Federal goals by moving children out of foster care into adoption, to their own reconstructed home situations or to other permanent placements.
There was a time, over a century ago, when the Juvenile Court in Cook County made national history by creating judicial services and options for children apart from the politics of the time. The need today is the same: keeping politics out of decisions about the needs of children. Drug addicted newborns, or children who have been beaten, starved, forced to live in cardboard boxes, or otherwise abandoned, need to be loved, served, treated, cared for. They do not need to have their lives disrupted and rearranged to suit the new political correctness.
The incredible role that Catholic Charities has played in the history of child welfare, their universal care for every child coming to them, make it a tragedy should they be eliminated, at the first screen, from the care system available to needy children.
(The writer was co-chair, along with the Director, of the Child Welfare Advisory Committee of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services during the 1990’s, Executive Director of Catholic Charities, and chair of the Social Services Advisory Council of the Illinois Department of Public Aid. He is currently Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago.)