Adoption Option: Illinois agency steps in when Catholic Charities abandons kids
On June 1, a new law went into effect in Illinois that grants certain legal rights to same-sex couples. The state hasn’t adopted full marriage equality (yet), but civil unions are now recognized, meaning that same-sex couples enjoy many of the same rights are opposite-sex couples who are legally married.
Couples in a civil union now have automatic hospital visitation rights, the ability to make emergency medical decisions for one another, the right to share a room in a nursing home, the right to receive survivor benefits and the ability to be considered as adoptive parents or foster care providers.
This last provision proved to be something of a sticking point. Illinois Catholic Charities coordinates a lot of adoptions in partnership with the state, and the group absolutely refused to work with same-sex couples.
To its credit, the state of Illinois told Catholic Charities to play by the new rules or take a hike. Some Illinois affiliates of Catholic Charities chose the hike. At the time, dire warnings were heard that the sky would fall and children in need of homes would be left unserved.
It didn’t take long for another provider to step up to the plate. When 330 children in northern Illinois were left without services because Bishop Thomas Doran of the Diocese of Rockford ordered a pull out, David McClure was quick to step in.
McClure runs the Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley, a provider without religious ties. He quickly arranged for the children in need to make a smooth transition to his agency. There, he said, no otherwise qualified person will be turned down from being considered as an adoptive parent or foster-care provider simply because of sexual orientation.
McClure, who attends a Congregational church that welcomes gay members, told the Chicago Tribune that he draws on his faith as he goes about his work. He added that his experiences at church have made him realize that same-sex couples can be great parents.
“We don’t have enough foster parents, period,” he said. “My friendships with people at that church helped me realize that these distinctions don’t need to be made.”
What a refreshing blast of common sense. Instead of blindly imposing religious criteria that automatically excludes people because they don’t measure up to a church’s idea of what’s moral, McClure’s agency intends to examine couples on a one-to-one basis and seek out those who are ready to take on the challenge of being care-givers.
The state of Illinois should have been partnering with agencies like McClure’s all along. Many religious people would probably argue that he his agency has been doing more of God’s work than Catholic Charities ever did.