On May 16, Sharonell Fulton and other Philadelphia foster parents asked the courts to overturn a city policy that is keeping a leading foster care agency from placing children with foster families during the city’s ongoing crisis, according to a news release from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. 

In March, the city of Philadelphia shut down Catholic Social Services, one of the top-performing foster agencies in the area. That same month, city officials issued a plea for 300 new foster parents to open their homes to the 6,000 children in the city’s foster care system. 

In Sharonell Fulton, et al. v. City of Philadelphia, the city’s foster parents say that the decision to stop this agency based on their religious beliefs has left dozens of foster homes empty, and makes it much harder for foster children to find placement. With the City threatening to make the ban permanent on June 30, Fulton and the other parents are worried about what will happen to these kids.  

“What justice is there in taking stable, loving homes away from children? If the City cuts off Catholic Social Services from foster care, foster moms like me won’t have the help and support they need to care for special-needs kids,” said Fulton. “I have relied on Catholic Social Services for support for years, and the City is taking away this help and causing harm and heartache to countless families like mine.” 

In the 25 years she has been a foster mother, Fulton has cared for over 40 children, including the two who are currently in her home. She says Catholic Social Services is one of the reasons she has been able to do so much for the city’s foster kids — they offer 24/7 support, resources and information. 

“For a city with so much history, the people in charge have a pretty short memory,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, which represents Catholic Social Services, along with Sharonell Fulton, Ceceila Paul and Toni Simms-Busch. “For a century, Catholic Social Services has been serving children in Philadelphia. Those children are the ones hurt by the City’s actions.”

As part of the agency’s Catholic mission, they work to find stable, loving foster homes, regardless of a child’s race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. The agency has never received complaints that their religious affiliation has prevented children from being placed or adopted. 

A hearing on this case is expected later this year.