The U.S. Supreme Court declined Wednesday to compel the city of Philadelphia to resume working with Catholic Social Services (CSS) for the placement of foster children.
In March, Philadelphia officials announced the city would no longer work with CSS for foster care placement, citing the group’s unwillingness to place foster children with same-sex couples due to its religious beliefs. CSS asked the Supreme Court in July for an injunction that would require the city to continue its foster-care placement with the agency during litigation over the matter.
The court’s order did not explain why it had not granted a requested injunction, but it did note that Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch supported the request. Five justices are needed to grant an injunction. The Supreme Court has presently eight justices following the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.
In 2017 the Catholic agency placed 266 children and aided more than 2,200 children in the Philadelphia area.
No same-sex couple had applied to be a foster parent with Catholic Social Services, and there are other agencies in the city that would accept and work with same-sex couples. Typically, CSS serves about 120 foster children in about 100 homes at any one time.
CSS had argued that without an injunction from the Supreme Court, the agency would likely be forced to close its foster care program.
Philadelphia’s refusal to work with Catholic Social Services comes amid a foster care crisis in the city. After announcing it would no longer work with the Catholic group, the city put out a call for an additional 300 homes to house some of the city’s 6,000 foster children.
As of May, about a dozen foster homes affiliated with CSS were empty, and there were concerns that all children residing in foster homes affiliated with the agency could be removed after the contract with the city expired in June. This does not appear to have happened.
Philadelphia is not the only city to refuse to work with a Catholic organization on the issue of foster care and adoption placement. In Buffalo, Catholic Charities recently ceased adoption and foster care work due to rules that would have forced the organization to violate their religious beliefs. Catholic Charities had done work with adoption in Buffalo for nearly a century before the rule change.