"Kenny" is a 15-year-old who was removed from his biological family seven years ago due to unsuitable living conditions. He's been a ward of the state of Illinois ever since, bouncing around the foster care system. He's been through numerous foster families and group homes. His most recent group home experience was disastrous; he was bullied incessantly, and decided life would be safer on the streets.
"Kenny" was soon in touch with Lutheran Child Family Services of Illinois. The organization was trying to find "Kenny" a more suitable home.And it looked like they found that, with the household of Fred Steinhauerand Matt Nalett, a Chicago couple.Nalett regularly attends meetings in the city's Boystown area with a teenage homeless group, which is where he first came into contact with "Kenny." The 15-year-old is now coming to terms with his sexual orientation, and now identifies as gay. Having interacted with "Kenny" in the youth group, Steinhauer and Nalett were in touch with Lutheran Child Family Services about becoming foster parents to him. They passed a home inspection. They met with state child welfare workers and "Kenny's" therapist. And they cleared all background checks. But just before the foster parent situation could be finalized, Lutheran Child Family Services balked. Why? Because they have a policy that says they won't place children, no matter how vulnerable, into foster families where the parents are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Apparently, they'd much rather see kids out on the streets.
To rub salt in the wound, Lutheran Child Family Services conveyed this message to Steinhauer and Nalett by handing them a sheet of paper with a policy statement written on it, and a curt message from an employee: let's not waste anyone's time, and have a nice day. That policy statement went a little something like this: "The agency will not develop or license adoptive or foster care families who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning." The message devastated Nalett and Steinhauer, who had even begun to get their house ready for the holidays for "Kenny" to experience. "My brain just like hit the floor," Nalett said. Lutheran Child Family Services said that it is their right to discriminate against same-sex couples in the foster care and adoption process because they are a religious organization, and are exempt from Illinois state law. But a lawyer for Lambda Legal, Camilla Taylor, said that Lutheran Child Family Services might like to believe that, but it's simply not true. She cited a number of court cases that showed organizations like Lutheran Child Family Services must follow statewide anti-discrimination laws, including when it comes to foster care or adoption.
"That is contrary to Illinois law but it's also a terrible wrong done to kids," Taylor said. Here's where it should also be mentioned that Lutheran Child Family Services receives close to $20 million from the state of Illinois, and as such should be required to follow Illinois anti-discrimination law. How sad that a religious organization would rather see kids on the streets than in loving homes. What would Jesus say about the message Lutheran Child Family Services is sending in this situation? We're guessing he'd have a few choice words that go something like, "Stop spreading intolerance and cruelty in my name." Tell Lutheran Child Family Srevices that they're harming kids by refusing to place them with qualified gay families. As benefactors of nearly $20 million of taxpayer money from the state of Illinois, Lutheran Child Family Services should make sure their services are open to all residents; else they should return that $20 million with a polite, "Thanks, but we'd rather be bigots."