Catholic Charities of Joliet readies for transition of foster care cases
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org November 15, 2011 10:18PM
Updated: December 17, 2011 8:28AM
JOLIET — Catholic Charities this week gave up its legal fight with the state over foster care still claiming it was right on the law but being left without anything practical to fight over.
Glenn Van Cura, executive director for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Joliet, was visiting offices Wednesday to talk with case workers about what he hopes will be their transition to other foster care agencies.
Van Cura said Catholic Charities was overstaffed since it was not getting any new cases amid its court battle with the state.
Catholic Charities stopped taking new cases in a dispute with the Illinois Department of Children and Family services over the legal requirements of the civil union law that went into effect this year.
In past years, Catholic Charities had referred homosexuals and unmarried couples to other agencies for foster care and adoption services. But state officials said that practice was discriminatory.
Catholic Charities of Joliet still has 258 active foster care cases, Van Cura said. But, “We can’t afford to sustain cases without new cases coming on board.”
Catholic Charities receives state funding for its foster care services.
The agency has a staff of about 35 full- and part-time employees at foster care offices in Joliet, Kankakee and Lombard. No one had been laid off during the dispute with the state, but it became impractical to try to maintain foster care services, Van Cura said.
“We feel we still have a good chance of winning (the legal dispute),” he said. “But financially it’s hurting us.”
Joliet Bishop Daniel Conlon with the bishops of the Springfield and Belleville dioceses put out a joint statement Monday saying that “the state of Illinois has made it financially impossible for our agencies to continue to provide these services” during legal appeals.
Catholic Charities was losing in court, however.
Lower courts had refused to grant Catholic Charities’ motions to allow the agency to continue operating as it had in the past until the legal dispute was settled in appeals.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services expects a smooth transition, noting that foster care cases have been moved to other agencies before.
Van Cura said he is still waiting to hear from DCFS on what is to happen with the cases in the Joliet diocese. But Catholic Charities will try to place its case workers with whatever agencies take on its cases.
Peter Breen, an attorney for the Thomas More Society who represented Catholic Charities in the legal battle, put out a statement Monday saying that he believed the agency’s policies on foster care and adoption were protected in the state’s Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act.
“This stands as a stark lesson to the rest of the nation that legislators promising ‘religious protection’ in same sex marriage and civil union laws may not be able to deliver on those promises,” Breen said in the statement.