Catholic Charities Fort Worth.
More than 25% of Texas’ foster care provider networks are faith-based. These agencies provide a necessary service to protect the state’s most vulnerable children. The services provided are life-saving.
For the system improvements in HB 6 to be successful, they must be coupled with conscience protections. Protecting the conscience rights and religious freedoms of agencies like ours does no harm to anyone. Instead, it allows our organization, which has served vulnerable children for more than a century, to continue to serve those at the greatest risk. We meet kids when they’re at one of the most traumatized moments in their life. They’ve been neglected, abused, and demeaned. We get a chance to offer them hope, to remind them of their God given purpose and to help them see that their life is worthy and dignified. The ability to provide this witness and service is a gift and one we are concerned that without conscience protections in this legislature, it could be stripped from us and these children.
We’ve witnessed how agencies are impacted when working in states without these protections. After more than 100 years of service, Catholic Charities Boston’s adoption and foster care program was forced to shut down after they refused to violate their religious beliefs. Foster and adoption services at Catholic Charities in San Francisco and Washington D.C. met the same fate. Surely Texas can do better.
Faith based agencies like ours provide necessary services for their communities and religious liberty protections will allow us to continue to operate. The possibility of the faith based foster care providers in this state closing their doors, would leave Texas in an even greater provider capacity crisis.
Not only are faith based agencies critical to filling a service gap, but a financial one. Through private donations we are able to provide a higher caliber of services. Those additional dollars provide psychiatric and psychological care, on-site educational services, weekly counseling sessions, and healthy recreational activities. All of these lead to a better chance at a stable life for our children.
Those dollars also provide for a behavioral assessment at initial intake, 30 and 60 days and at discharge. Those assessments are what lead us to a better understanding of the child and allow for a successful permanent placement.
At the end of the day, this is about protecting our children. Faith based agencies that are currently providing these services are vital to a successful foster care reform. In order to do so, we need conscience protections to exist. With those in place, we look forward to continuing to partner with the State of Texas in providing basic assistance to our most vulnerable children.