Faith, Charity, and a Little Less Hope

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The Corner approvingly cites Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's announcement that he intends to push for legislation that would exempt religious groups providing adoption services from state antidiscrimination laws, thereby allowing groups like Catholic Charities to refuse to consider prospective gay parents fror the kids in their charge.

Now, as this applies to private adoption—that is, kids placed there voluntarily by parents—I've got no real beef with this, though as I said earlier this week, I find it puzzling that deeply held convictions (as, for instance, against gay parenting) deserve this kind of deference only when they're arrived at by asking "What Would Jesus Do?" But the article quoted at The Corner also tells us this:

In addition, since 1977, the state Department of Social Services (DSS) has contracted with Catholic Charities to provide special needs adoption services to children with severe emotional and physical needs. Currently, the waiting list for children in DSS care awaiting adoption is close to 700.

Now, that's another barrel of babies entirely. As I noted in a feature article on gay adoption last summer, gay couples seem to be disproportionately disposed to adopt those hardest-to-place special needs kids. Among those adoptive parents are folks like the Loftons, health care workers who have been raising five HIV-positive children since infancy. When the state takes charge of kids, it has an obligation to help find them the best homes it can. And if an agency announces that, as a matter of principle, it's not even going to consider a couple like the Loftons, it's grossly irresponsible for the state to outsource kids in dire need of a home to that agency. That isn't a question of religious liberty; it's a question of what the state owes to children in its custody. It owes them a home—and it has no business denying them one just because some candidate parents don't meet with the approval of Catholic doctrine.

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  1. Just what I would expect from The Corner. Those people are all going to burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater.

  2. One reason I love this mag (pun not intended) is that it includes lines like “Now, that’s another barrel of babies entirely.”

  3. The problem is a large number of religious nutcases think it is better for a child to endure foster care or live in a dumpster than take the risk that the gay will rub off on them.

  4. The stance of Catholic Charities on this issue is evidence that they are not qualified to place kids in the first place.

  5. BTW, when did Romney start acting like a Republican?

  6. Between “that’s another barrel of babies” and “given that a significant proportion of the Times’ readership probably thinks a “libertarian” is some kind of naughty librarian” in the previous post, Julian gets the Friday Felicitous Phrase award.

  7. “BTW, when did Romney start acting like a Republican?”

    In earnest? After November 2, 2004.

  8. The Catholic Church seems to exist to increase the general amount of suffering on this planet. It so deeply offends Catholics to hear this, but does anything else really get them so jazzed up beyond the prospect of making things more difficult for the weakest among us?

  9. Wait…this is backwards. Presumably the state is shuffling kids to different agencies for adoption services. If Cathaolic Charities doesn’t want to place in gay families, so what? If htey don’t want to place in Jewish families, who gives a rat’s ass? As long as there are other agencies providing the service, kids won’t be losing out too much. You know, give some kids to Catholic Charities, give some others to Gay Hindi Adoption Services, LLC.

    As long as Catholic Charities doesn’t have a monopoly on the state’s unwanted kids, not allowing them to follow their principles is about the dumbest thing the state could do.

  10. Budgie, thats a unique critique. The Catholic church is more often criticized for doing too much to help the weak and the poor. That’s actually a big reason many libertarians don’t like the Catholic Church (even those that aren’t athiests).

  11. Warren:

    There’s almost a Firefly quote for any situation, isn’t there?

    It doesn’t hurt that I just starting watching Firefly 2 weeks ago, thanks to Netflix, and am so sad that I’ve only got one episode left to watch, plus Serenity, which is sitting next to my DVD player begging to be watched.

  12. By the way, what is the hard-core libertarian explanation for having the state involved in adoption in the first place? I have nothing against it, but I am hardly a libertarian.

  13. mac:

    Good question. As an adoptee, I feel the system sucks. I was adopted through a private charity (the Catholic Service League, now run by the United Way), but they had to play by the rules the state set. My guess is that private adoption centers could be workable, although we have to think about the children.

  14. mac-
    Many of these “special needs” children were taken away from parents who abused them or ended up in jail, which I think actually is a reasonable state function.

  15. Are there any studies that have been done that examine whether and how kids raised by gay couples differ relative to those adopted and raised by heterosexual couples? If anyone knows of one can you please let me know?

  16. jf –
    I don’t actually think there’s a very strong argument in favor of unregulated adoption. Whether or not the system is perfect or not is not genuinely the issue. In the case of adoption, the question is whether or not the child has any rights, and how to ensure those rights aren’t violated. You are pretty much going to need to bring the state in at some level. (I can imagine some skanky pervert trying to adopt, and some strung-out addict looking for a fix. That’s when you cross the line from adoption to child slavery. Now, arguing the details of how to draw such lines is an old liberal pasttime.)

  17. OneState:
    Even if Catholic charities don’t have a monopoly over child adoption services, their homophobic policies still serve to imprison foster kids.

    Moreover, they may have their principles, but shouldn’t the child’s well being take precedence over another’s superstitions?

  18. The Little Woman and I have been adopters since 1974, therefore we have been sensitive to issues like this.
    First, give credit to Ohio Senator Howard Metzenbaum for trying to remove barriers to transracial adoptions.
    My sense is we still have issues with transracial adoptions so it is discouraging to see gay adoptions seem to pose an even higher barrier.
    When will we ever learn?

  19. Does that Catholic charity offer more aid that other groups? I don’t know that this is particularly unusual, as I’m going to venture a guess that American Atheists and Scrabble clubs just don’t have as much money to throw at the problem.

    How ought the state decide what limits can be placed on good parenthood – and who here wants to be the one that writes them?

  20. mac:

    You have a very good point about child slavery, but in Libertopia adoption agencies would be regulated by how well they do for the biological parents as well as the adoptive parents. I suppose this would be ripe for abuse, if a “You Pop ‘Em We Shop ‘Em” adoption agency were to emerge for people looking to sell their kids to the highest bidder, and damn the consequences. I’d suspect that municipalities would place restrictions on adoption agencies that would prohibit such practices, though. In addition, based on my experiences, even when giving a baby up for adoption, the maternal instinct is strong enough to prevent that type of agency seeing enough trade to stay in business.

  21. Are there any studies that have been done that examine whether and how kids raised by gay couples differ relative to those adopted and raised by heterosexual couples?

    I don’t know, but it wouldn’t surprise at all that such kids might be more statistically likely to catch teh gay. That is, they would not feel the pressure to stay in the closet like kids in “normal” families. Of course, CC* and assorted nasty folks would seize this info and twist it into some sort of indictment of gay parents “turning” their kids gay.

    *who I am sure does very good work in other areas

  22. I guss theonestate said it already, but monopolies suck. Competition is better. The government should re-regulate to end the Catholic monopoly (assuming things really are as this post implies) and bring some competition to bear on the situation.

    If the Catholic Church is perpetuating its monopoly by buying off the legislature, I had no idea that Reasonoids saw that kind of thing as a problem. Cause free (corporate) speech!

  23. Free speech and bribery are two different things, AC. Nice straw man, though!

  24. In terms of studies, there is some indication that children that come from homes with parental figures from each gender tend to do better in adulthood. There are certain things men are better able to communicate to children (generally) and certain things women are better able to communicate (generally).

    I suppose that’s the only real somewhat reasonable objection someone could make to gay adoption, but then it’s only a statistical tendency at best, and it wouldn’t be at all applicable to a lesbian woman and a gay man who chose to adopt.

    I think that’s a pretty freakin’ lousy reason to deny a kid a home he otherwise doesn’t have (most situations must be preferrential to being a ward of the state), but it is what it is. Straight bans on adoption for same sex couples isn’t justified under any circumstance.

    Preferential treatment based on the gender makeup of the prospective parents I suppose could be discussed, but that opens up a can of worms that probably should stay closed.

  25. Are there any studies that have been done that examine whether and how kids raised by gay couples differ relative to those adopted and raised by heterosexual couples? If anyone knows of one can you please let me know?

    What does it matter?

    Christian anti-adoptionists will not care because it’s a matter of sprituality/morality (as if there’s actually a connection between the two) OR they will explain that even if the kids come out o.k., they are more likely to be tolerant of homosexuality…which is what they object to in the first place.

    The more liberal-ish pro-adoptionists will undoubtedly distort any and all data to serve their position while failing to make the actual point.

    And Libertarians will complain, argue, punch holes in and disagree with every single study provided by anyone about anything…even if it agrees with their position.

  26. In terms of studies, there is some indication that children that come from homes with parental figures from each gender tend to do better in adulthood. There are certain things men are better able to communicate to children (generally) and certain things women are better able to communicate (generally).

    True…but these studies don’t compare anything to gay parents. They only compare traditional married (male & female) couples to single parents.

    As for the issue the Christo-fundi-wackos really care about, there’s plenty of reaearch showing that there’s no difference in the rate of homosexuality amongst children of gay parents to heterosexual ones. There’s no difference in the rate of school problems, behavioral problems and social adjustment issues.

    It should be noted than none of these studies have looked at adopted families.

  27. AND…there are plenty of studies that show that long-term foster care is generally bad for most kids.

    Arguably much worse than having loving parentage of any pursuasion.

    But then that’s just a suspicion…

  28. Is the Catholic Church the only agency involved, or one of many? How many children do they place a year? What is their track record?

    Let’s not forget that adoption is meant to benefit the children, not the adopters, and the only criterion is “what kind of home are those children given to”? and “for how long do children have to wait in limbo before having a home”?

    As long as the Catholic Church does its job well, I have no problem with his work.

    What I object is leaving children indefinitely in limbo rather than turn them over to a perfectly good couple who does not fit your criterion of what a proper couple is.

  29. The Catholic Church believes and teaches that homosexuality is wrong and, therefore, prohibits its member organizations from acknowledging homosexuality which, in this example, involves the placement of children for adoption with gay couples. This is, undeniably, a principled position. Which I happen to disagree with and, when I’m Pope, will correct (do you have to be a practicing Catholic to become Pope?).

    The Commonwealth of MA has established a law barring discrimination against certain categories and classes of people – gay and lesbian folks being in one such category. Also a pricipled position – with which I wholeheartedly agree. It has further asserted that the Cathoic Charities is, by denying the placement of children with gay couples, violating that law.

    There are only two possible outcomes of this clash of priciples:

    1. One of the parties abandons its priciples.
    2. Both assert their commitment to their priciples.

    Obviously, B is where we are and I don’t see a bad guy in this conflict. Regardless of the overused query “but what about the children?!”.

  30. Libertarianism is especially vulnerable regarding children. It’s all well and good to contend that it is a legitimate state function to intervene when children are being neglected or abused by their parents, but then we have to decide what constitutes serious enough neglect or abuse to warrant such action. Then, too, even in clear cut cases (or should that be “clear-cut cases” or “clear-cut-cases”? Sorry, just a brief digression over Easter Island forestry and pun-ctuation) the question how to place such children, when possible, in foster or adoptive homes certainly doesn’t seem to admit to any sort of market solution. Which is, by the way, just to acknowledge more pre-reflective evidence that people should not be treated as property regardless of age.

    I don’t follow the literature, scientific or otherwise, on adoption policies, but my own pre-reflective sense of ideal adoptive parents leads me to believe that a gay couple would be less preferable than a heterosexual couple, all other factors equal. Of course, all other factors never are. As Mr. Sanchez noted, the pool of potential adoptive couples for special needs children is not large and, in any case, whatever minor advantages may accrue to a child by having both a male and female parent could hardly outweigh the far greater advantage of having capable, willing and loving parents.

    By way of minor thread-jacking (and speaking as both an adoptee and adopter), while I agree with Mr. Sanchez, it seems to me that the far bigger problem in the U.S. adoption “market” is a strong bias against interracial adoptions, especially against placing African American children in white families. Admittedly, that’s a separate topic.

    However, I wonder if the same factors may not be at work in whatever non-religious bias there may be against gay adoptions. That is, if the reasoning is that black children will be better off in black families, white kids in white families, etc., might not the unstated premise in concerns about gay adoptions be the presupposition that the child probably is (will be or, ahem, otherwise would be) heterosexual? Put differently, and ignoring religious or other arguments about converting homosexuals to heterosexuality, if there were a gay gene such that infants’ sexual orientation could be identified at birth, might it not follow that gay children would be better off (again, all other factors equal) with gay parents?

    Please note I’m not trying to make an argument for the forced removal of gay children from their straight parents, etc. I’m trying only to identify what unexamined factors may be at play in this general topic.

  31. …it seems to me that the far bigger problem in the U.S. adoption “market” is a strong bias against interracial adoptions, especially against placing African American children in white families.

    There doesn’t seem to be any bias against whites adopting Asians. Just ask Brangelina. In fact…just ask any well-to-do childless couple frustated by the turgid, bureaucratic folly known as the U.S. Adoption System. Asian babies (also another narrel of babies entirely) are HOT!

  32. However, I wonder if the same factors may not be at work in whatever non-religious bias there may be against gay adoptions. That is, if the reasoning is that black children will be better off in black families, white kids in white families, etc.,

    For the sake of the thread – while you raise some intersting questions that have not yet been fully explored – the core argument for me is Foster System vs. Non-Ideal Match.

    In my book, with the evidence, suspicions and insights so far gleened, Non-Ideal Match is better than foster care.

    Of course, if the Catholic Church as an institution were really serious, why don’t they lay a guilt trip (get it…Catholic…Guilt) on good Catholics to get off there duffs and get out and adopt like crazy so the opposition can’t get a foot hold.

  33. Interesting article on Slate relevant to the topic.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2137879/

  34. Sadly one of the weak points of libertariansim involves children. Unfortunately children cannot enter into contracts, or have much acquisitive power, thus they cannot fully participate in the activities that libertarians tend to discuss. Which leads to overlooking them, because they tend not to fit the theory.

    The reason why adoption is regulated is because adoption is not buying and selling children, and that its clients are not the adopters but the children. If the clients were the adopters, what is to prevent a brothel-keeper from scooping up future talent at the adoption agency? They certainly can put the cash..

    I rather have too stringent requirements as to who can adopt than too lax. I hope that people will see reason about stable gay couples, but I know it will take time.

  35. According to the Slate article, as more and more family law cases involve gay parents and their partners having custody of children because it’s in the best interest of the child, as opposed to the whims of politicians ideas of morality, the case is being made steadily for gay adoption rather than against it.

  36. Free speech and bribery are two different things, AC. Nice straw man, though!

    Good point, RCD; there is no evidence of bribery we can lay our hands on here, so if the Catholic Church has a monopoly on adoption placements of disabled children in Massachusetts, it must be the result of good old fashioned legitimate, logical persuasion. Certainly the people involved must understand a lot better than Mr. Sanchez does about why things are the way they are. I should have known that my Church would never stoop to bribery!

  37. Vis a vis studies, since I’ve been through some of the literature here:

    (1) On orientation — there’s some indication that kids raised by gay parents are somewhat more likely to experiment as teenagers but no more likely to identiify gay as adults. That suggests to me that there’s probably an underlying disposition for most people that’s set very early–probably largely as a function of biochemistry, maybe partly as a function of early environment, but apparently in some suitably subtle way that it’s not any kind of straightforward parental modeling–and a more common curious or exploratory phase where whether its acted on does depend on how stigmatized the behavior is around them.

    (2) On comparisons — the studies that have been done (individually small-scale, but there’s quite a lot of them now, so you can do meta-analysis to get a more robust reesult) mostly compare single straight and lesbian mothers, and find no important differences in outcomes. That’s actually useful to know, since a decent proportion of adoptions are to single (straight) women. For a variety of reasons I won’t bore you with, it’s difficult to get enough sets of straight and gay adoptive couple parents for there to be much literature here. But the literature on the benefits of marriage to children mostly suggest that the bulk of the benefits are to kids living with both biological parents–outcomes for kids raised in households where one parent has remarried look a lot more like outcomes for single parents, controlling for stuff like household income differences, education, etc. In short, there’s various benefits from a second income, but once you hold that constant, the balance of the benefits seem to depend on having both biological parents present. You get the second income whether a couple is gay or straight, and any child being adopted is, by definition, not going to be growing up with both biological parents. So while more direct studies would be nice, I think the data we have points toward not expecting significant differences.

    Not, incidentally, that this is super relevant to adoption: Studies give you information about aggregates; adoption involves pretty heavy individualized vetting.

  38. Julian Sanchez,
    Your comment epitomizes one thing that pisses me off about H&R: You felt you had to try to appease the nerds here who would rather wither and dissolve into detail than be outraged.
    Who gives a rat’s ass if every child adopted by a gay couple ends up being gay?
    Babies need love and they need it immediately after being born.
    Nerds and government types can grok the need for food and diaper changes, but they tend to be autistic when it comes to LOVE, dammit.

  39. Who gives a rat’s ass if every child adopted by a gay couple ends up being gay?
    Babies need love and they need it immediately after being born.

    That may be true, but it is important to put the scientific data out there, as it exposes the real reasons behind the gay-parent bashing for what it really is, which is a dislike for that sexual orientation, as opposed to “what’s best for the children”.

    However, I realize no amount of “scientific data” will shut up a zealot.

    I’m sure tomorrow’s Columbine Killers are more likely to come out of the homes of holy rollers, than the Heather Has Two Mommies household.

  40. As a self-confessed nerd, I thought things dissolved out of detail rather than the opposite. Silly me.

    Also, as a parent I long ago abandoned any notion that parental modeling (except in extreme cases) was of more than minor consequence in the psychological development of children, sexual orientation probably included.

    Of course, there are no ideal matchings in the adoption process (or, if they are, they are accidentally so), and I fully agree with madpad that the foster care system is a disaster, not the least reason for which is the strong predisposition toward keeping too many children in that system far too long in the unreasonable hope they can be returned to their unfit biological parents. Even so, that is a separate issue from what factors should be relevant and how relevant they should be in the case of permanent adoption policy.

    I don’t know how many Asian-American children are available for adoption, but I suspect the numbers are small. There is, of course, literally a market for adoptable children abroad, especially including China and Russia. Regarding interracial adoption policy, I simply note that the field of social work is populated by those predisposed to the sort of contemporary liberalism that is likely to embrace antipathy toward placing black children in white families. Also, whether relevant or not, I further suspect that the number and proportional representation of Asian-Americans in the field of social work is small.

    Finally, I am all for scientific data; however, as Mr. Sanchez suggests, a child is not a datum. It is one thing to argue that a religious organization’s doctrine should not trump secular social policy. I certainly agree. On the other hand, the suggestion by several others that Christianity generally or Roman Catholicism specifically is not a generally positive force regarding adoption is simply absurd.

  41. …the suggestion by several others that Christianity generally or Roman Catholicism specifically is not a generally positive force regarding adoption is simply absurd.

    I don’t think anyone is saying that Christianity – or faith of any sort – isn’t a positive force regarding adoption.

    The issue at hand is Christian people using morality (their version of it according to their faith) as an reason to prevent adoption.

    They seem to posit that it is better for a chld to languish in foster care rather than be adopted by willing, loving and stable – but gay – folk. A point about whihc I and many others happen to seriously disagree for a number of reasons.

    I think that’s a different matter altogether from whether or not a person’s faith is a positive force regarding adoption.

    If the end result is not positive – and I believe keeping children in foster care when there are perfectly good folks willing to adopt them is not positive – then it become hard to get behind well-meaning but misguided Christian’s efforts as positive.

  42. …the suggestion by several others that Christianity generally or Roman Catholicism specifically is not a generally positive force regarding adoption is simply absurd.
    Also, let’s not forget that, as is always the case when discussing a “them,” the Catholic Church is not monolithic on this issue. As I understand it, the 42-member board that handles the CC’s adoption process voted to follow the MA law and do gay adoptions; the bishops stepped in and overruled them, casuing a few of that board to resign. So again the “man on the street” wanted to do what was best for the children; the leaders stopped them.

  43. Does the Catholic Church also refuse to place children with divorced parents? My guess is ‘no’, even though by Catholic doctrine remarriage after divorce is at least as wrong as homosexuality (the latter is fornication; the latter is *adultery*). This is about anti-gay bigotry, not religioius principles.

  44. The issue at hand is Christian people using morality (their version of it according to their faith) as an reason to prevent adoption.

    Catholic Charities is the organization providing the adoption service. They are not preventing other organizations from placing children with gay adoptive parents, but simply not including that option as part of their particular service. As a private agency, that’s fine. (Now, I agree wholeheartedly that it would be inappropriate for the state to contract, soley at least, with such an organization because that would deny the children of Massachusetts an option most citizens of Massachusetts appear to agree is preferable, i.e. placement with a gay adoptive couple versus foster care.)

    With respect to the “religous nutcase” comments (ouch! says this libertarian Catholic) I would point out that Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of Boston in their press releases have acknowledged how difficult a decision this was. I think CC’s press release was refreshingly humble and honest, without compromising their beliefs. More importantly, they didn’t lay into the Commonweatlth for passing the legislation, or whine and ask for any special treatment:

    …we have encountered a dilemma we cannot resolve. In spite of much effort and analysis, Catholic Charities of Boston finds that it cannot reconcile the teaching of the Church, which guides our work, and the statutes and regulations of the Commonwealth. The issue is adoption to same-sex couples, and we realize that for many it is a sensitive, deeply felt issue of conscience.
    We recognize the complexity of the issue, and we are aware of the debates which have swirled around it. As an agency, however, we simply must recognize that we cannot continue in this ministry. Therefore, we plan to begin discussions with appropriate agencies of the Commonwealth to end our work in adoptions. We will do this in an orderly, planned fashion so that the children we have been entrusted with will be cared for, supported and found permanent homes.
    http://www.rcab.org/News/releases/2006/statement060310-2.html

  45. Kim B.

    I appreciate your comments and you’ve brought a nice sense of balance to what is, admittedly, a difficult issue for conflicted Christians.

    Narrowly focusing on this particular circumstance, however, might be a bit unfair as I was speaking with regard to the whole issue and not just the Catholic Charities. In my statement, I called out the the whole of Christians responible for pushing this kind of agenda and not just one group.

    I live in Florida where we have a law prohibiting gays from adopting. Both Catholics and Evangelicals have been vocal in keeping this the status quo in Florida.

  46. On “Sixty Minutes” tonight were shown identical twins: one gay, one straight.
    Religion was SO irrelevant to the science.

    I repeat: A baby needs love from the moment it’s born.
    Anyone creating bureaucratic delay should be killed.
    It’s a matter of trying to make a fellow human comfortable with the prickly concept of existence.

  47. Ruthless has said it better, shorter and with more style.

  48. “A baby needs love from the moment it’s born.
    Anyone creating bureaucratic delay should be killed.”

    God I love Hit and Run! Where else do you read shit like this? Short and to the point!

  49. Are there any studies that have been done that examine whether and how kids raised by gay couples differ relative to those adopted and raised by heterosexual couples? If anyone knows of one can you please let me know?

    They’re filed behind all the studies the government has supported concerning Medical Marijuana.

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