Texas bishops affirm opportunity for Catholics to engage in foster care system

Passage of House bill 3859, authored by Rep. James Frank and Sen. Charles Perry, provides conscience protection for organizations and individuals wishing to serve in Texas’ foster care system

AUSTIN — The Texas Legislature has passed a bill providing people motivated by their religious beliefs the freedom to serve children in Texas’ foster care system. Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign the bill into law.

House bill 3859, authored by Rep. James Frank, Wichita Falls, allows organizations and individuals with sincerely-held religious beliefs to remove themselves from actions in direct violation of their faith. This includes declining to assist child in obtaining an abortion or recruiting same sex couples in the foster care system.

The bill provides mechanisms for the state to ensure these services are provided to all who wish to participate. It is part of a reform effort by the Texas Legislature, in response to a great need for more foster families.

Most Catholic Charities in the state had withdrawn from serving foster children. The new law removes a significant barrier to Catholics serving children in the foster care system and will trigger greater recruitment efforts by Catholic parishes and ministries.

Jennifer Carr Allmon, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, expressed gratitude to Rep. Frank, Sen. Perry and other legislators for their support of the legislation. “Now Catholics can join other people of good will and serve Texas’ children in good faith.” The TCCB will work with diocesan offices to launch a public information campaign this fall encouraging Catholic families to be foster parents.

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops is the association of the Roman Catholic bishops of Texas. Through the TCCB, the bishops provide a moral and social public policy voice that includes monitoring all legislation pertaining to Catholic moral and social teaching; accredit the state's Catholic schools; and maintain records that reflect the work and the history of the Catholic Church in Texas.