In 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Fulton case, which revolved around whether religiously affiliated adoption agencies were required to consider queer couples as prospective placement parents. Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was involved in the suit to oppose such a requirement.
In March of that year, the Catholic agency lost one of their allies when Bethany Christian Services, the largest Christian child well-being organization in the U.S., decided to change their policy and allow same-gender couples to be considered as foster and adoptive parents. They already maintained such a policy in 12 of the 32 states where they operated, and this change made the policy uniform across all their locations.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, Bethany experienced a backlash against their move toward non-discrimination, resulting in the loss of donations and of potential placement parents. New Ways Ministry praises Bethany’s courageous stand, and we encourage our readers and supporters to help this Christian agency.
The following is a message from Cheri Williams, Senior Vice President of Domestic Programs, explaining their new policy. Bethany’s example is one that Catholic agencies should follow. New Ways Ministry thanks them for providing this new model for religiously affiliated agencies.
You Are Welcome at Bethany
by Cheri Williams
With your big heart for children and families, you are welcome at Bethany. Together, we can live out our shared faith to care for vulnerable people—the “overlooked and ignored” Jesus describes in Matthew 25:40 (The Message) who are close to his heart.
I understand if you have doubts or have heard otherwise. The LGBTQ+ community hasn’t always been welcome at Bethany, and I lament that our past practices have made members of this community feel overlooked and ignored. We are working to do better.
As Bethany sets our course for the years ahead, we have committed to listening to and elevating the diverse voices of the youth and families we serve, and that has long included LGBTQ+ youth, individuals, and families in various places throughout our network. Bethany became fully inclusive across our locations in Michigan in 2019, and on March 1, 2021, we formally made our policies consistent and welcoming, including adoption and foster care, in every Bethany location across the country.
We made this change because it was right to do so and time to do so, understanding and respecting that some Christians disagree. With so many hurting people across our world today, we need everyone to be part of the solution to help families stay together and to give every child who needs one a safe, loving home. That’s why we’re building a broad coalition of Christians that can come together—not for politics or religion, but for children and families.
This decision comes amid other steps we’re taking to fundamentally change our approach to child and family services. We’re holding focus groups with youth and families that have experienced foster care and listening sessions with people facing the kinds of crises that can tear families apart. We’re building parent advisory councils to listen and learn from the communities we serve so we can build programs and services—in community, with community—that strengthen families and help without hurting.
We’re also investing in training across our 30-state network to equip us to be more welcoming, understanding and learning from the LGBTQ+ community. This includes practical considerations, such as using appropriate language, rethinking what it means to conduct an inclusive home study, and hiring team members with inclusive expertise. And we’re partnering with LGBTQ+ voices to do this.
We’re learning, and we recognize we’re on a journey. And we genuinely invite you to join us because we believe everyone, everywhere, deserves to be safe, loved, and connected.
Here are a few ways you can get involved:
Strengthen a family as a Safe Families volunteer
When families face a temporary crisis, many parents rely on relatives and friends to help care for their children. But some don’t have that option. You can encourage your church to partner with Safe Families, becoming an important part of a family’s circle of support.
Welcome a newly resettled refugee family
When refugee families first arrive in the U.S., they need advocates to walk alongside them as they start over in a new country. You can welcome a refugee family and help them get settled into their community.
Become a foster parent
In the U.S., more than 400,000 kids are in foster care—they need love and support more than ever. When you provide this love while supporting family reunification, you can be part of a family’s comeback story!
You can provide a loving home to an unaccompanied child seeking safety in the U.S. We are especially looking for foster homes for teens and sibling groups. You can choose to help with short-term or long-term placements.
Adopt a child, teen, or sibling group
When children in foster care are unable to safely reunite with their parents, you can give them a loving, permanent home through adoption. More than 100,000 children in the U.S are waiting for a family to call their own.
At Bethany, we’ve seen the transformative power of “safe, loved, and connected”—for moms and dads who found hope, for children and teens who found a family, and for refugees who found a home.
We love Jesus. We love kids. We love families. If that’s your heart too, then let’s change the world through family. Together.
Join us online at Bethany.org.
–Cheri Williams, Senior Vice President of Domestic Programs, Bethany Christian Services, June 8, 2022