Croatia gets first gay foster parents

Croatia gay foster

A Croatian gay couple became foster parents to two children after a legal battle becoming the first same-sex couple to be granted the right in the largely Catholic country, an activist said Monday.

Croatia, a European Union member since 2013, has seen a gradual liberalisation of gay rights in recent years.Croatia gay foster

Gay couples have been able to register as life partners since 2014, a status that grants them most of the same rights as married couples.

In February, the top court ruled that gay couples also had the right to foster children — a matter that was in dispute because they were not included in a 2018 law on the issue.

It paved the way for life partners Ivo Segota and Mladen Kozic from Zagreb to foster children after the bitter legal fight since 2017 during which they were ping-ponged between a social welfare centre, the social policy ministry and the courts.

“Our members Ivo and Mladen are very happy with new members of their household,” said Daniel Martinovic, head of Rainbow Families, a group of same-sex parents.

Deccan Herald via AFP, September 7, 2020

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How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy, Foster Care and Adoption

How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy

How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy – The pandemic is not just impacting parents and pregnant people — all prospective parents are facing new challenges.

How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy – Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has upended life for those who are or hope to become pregnant in the United States. Fertility doctors have indefinitely postponed all advanced fertility treatments, and some major hospitals in hard-hit areas are trying to ban partners and doulas from delivery rooms.

But the pandemic is affecting expectant parents forming families through surrogacy, foster care and adoption as well.

Global travel restrictions have left surrogacy agencies in the United States scrambling for exemptions for their international clients — particularly for those whose surrogates are scheduled to give birth in the next month or two.How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy

Circle Surrogacy, an agency based in Boston, has 15 international clients with due dates before May 1. “We’ve had our legal team prepare letters for each of these families, which has gotten many of them into the country despite travel bans,” said Sam Hyde, the agency’s president. Still, he said, his foreign clients were at the mercy of individual immigration officials. “Some have been sympathetic to the plight of our clients, others have not — it’s really been a case-by-case basis.”

 

Some intended parents, as clients of surrogacy agencies are known, who are currently struggling to gain entry into the United States are hoping to do so after completing a 14-day quarantine in a country with less severe travel restrictions.

Last week, for instance, Johnny and Patty — a Chinese couple working with a surrogate living in South Carolina — traveled from Shanghai to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to begin two weeks in isolation at a local hotel. The couple, who work for an international company and use these westernized names, asked that their last name be withheld since surrogacy is still relatively uncommon in China. They hope to complete their quarantine in time to witness the birth of their daughter, who is due in mid-April, and claim guardianship over her.

But with travel restrictions tightening seemingly daily, they worry their effort may still be in vain. “First we bought plane tickets to travel through Thailand, but now travel is restricted there,” Johnny said in an interview from their hotel on the second day of his quarantine. “Then we tried Dubai, but that is now also restricted.” Traveling via Cambodia, he said, was the couple’s “last hope” to reach the United States in time for their daughter’s birth.

Though they would be disappointed to miss the delivery, the couple said they were even more concerned, in that scenario, about the baby’s well-being in the ensuing days before they are allowed to travel. “Who will take care of our baby if we can’t arrive before she’s born?” Patty said.

Will Halm, a managing partner at International Reproductive Law Group, said surrogacy agencies were creating contingency plans for clients living abroad who may be prohibited from entering the United States over the next few months. “Plan A is absolutely to have parents in the U.S., joyfully watching their child being born,” he said. “If they can’t get into the country in time, that’s when we look to plans B, C and D.”

 

In one of the better scenarios, agencies hope friends or family members living in the United States can temporarily assume guardianship of the baby until the intended parents are granted entry into the country. As a backup, however, caseworkers are also preparing strangers — health care professionals, child care providers and even surrogates themselves — to care for the newborns until travel restrictions are eased.

“These babies will not be abandoned,” said Dr. Kim Bergman, founder of Growing Generations, a surrogacy agency with dozens of international clients who may be impacted by travel bans in the coming months. “We have an army of former surrogates who are ready and eager to act as helpers and guardians for as long as necessary.”

The ongoing crisis has created an uncertain environment for foster care parents and children as well. “Basically, everything is on pause until things are back to normal,” said Trey Rabun, who works as a services supervisor at Amara, a foster care agency based in Seattle, Wash. — one of a growing number of states ordering its citizens to work from home.

Amara, whose staff members are included in the state’s proclamation, has been able to continue some aspects of the licensing process for foster parents online, such as initial interviews. But other critical components, like home inspections, need to be done in person, Rabun said.

As a result, the number of foster homes, already all too scarce in Washington before the crisis hit, will remain static for the state’s over 10,000 foster care children until the pandemic subsides and business returns to normal, Rabun said. Of bigger concern to him, and other foster care professionals throughout the country, is the impact that “stay at home” orders may have on children not yet accounted for in the system.

“We know abuse and neglect happen more in high-stress situations,” Rabun said. But the people who would normally notice and report these sorts of problem, like teachers and doctors, will be unable to do so in the days and weeks ahead. “No one has eyes on them,” he said.

With courts and other government offices closed in many states, parents who had hoped to finalize adoptions within the next couple of months are also now navigating a drastically changed landscape — particularly for parents completing adoptions abroad.

 

Early in the year, when the coronavirus was barely registering as a news story outside of Asia, Holt International — an agency that facilitates adoption placements between Chinese orphanages and adoptive parents in the United States — was already closely monitoring and responding to the outbreak.

NYTimes.com, by David Dodge, April 1, 2020

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Supreme Court to Hear Case on Foster Care and Gay Rights

Foster Care Gay

The justices will consider whether a city may exclude a Catholic adoption agency from its foster care system because it refuses to work with gay couples.

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether Philadelphia may exclude a Catholic agency that does not work with same-sex couples from the city’s foster-care system.Foster Care Gay

The city stopped placements with the agency, Catholic Social Services, after a 2018 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer described its policy against placing children with same-sex couples. The agency and several foster parents sued the city, saying the decision violated their First Amendment rights to religious freedom and free speech.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled against the agency. The city was entitled to require compliance with its nondiscrimination policies, the count said.

Leslie Cooper, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the Supreme Court’s decision in the case would affect many families.

“This case could have profound consequences for the more than 400,000 children in foster care across the country,” she said. “We already have a severe shortage of foster families willing and able to open their hearts and homes to these children. Allowing foster care agencies to exclude qualified families based on religious requirements that have nothing to do with the ability to care for a child such as their sexual orientation or faith would make it even worse.”

In a Supreme Court brief, the agency agreed that the legal questions before the justices were enormously consequential.

“Here and in cities across the country, religious foster and adoption agencies have repeatedly been forced to close their doors, and many more are under threat,” the brief said. “These questions are unavoidable, they raise issues of great consequence for children and families nationwide, and the problem will only continue to grow until these questions are resolved by this court.”

The case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, No. 19-123, is the latest clash between anti-discrimination principles and claims of conscience. It is broadly similar to that of a Colorado baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

In 2018, the Supreme Court refused to decide the central issue in that case: whether businesses may claim exemptions from anti-discrimination laws on religious grounds. It ruled instead that the baker had been mistreated by members of the state’s civil rights commission who had expressed hostility toward religion.

The foster care agency relied on the decision, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in arguing that it too had been subjected to hostility based on anti-religious prejudice. It added that its free-speech rights would be violated were it forced to certify that same-sex couples are fit to be foster parents.

The city responded that the agency was not entitled to rewrite government contracts to eliminate anti-discrimination clauses.

“It has never been the case that religious entities, or entities with deeply held secular views, are constitutionally entitled to enter into government contracts and then defy any terms to which they object,” the city’s brief said. If the agency’s “sweeping constitutional claims were accepted,” the brief said, “they would cause mayhem in government contracting.”

NYTimes.com, By Adam Liptak, February 24, 2020

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Why Aren’t There More Rich Foster Parents?

foster parents

Bureaucracy — no surprise — gets in the way of expanding the pool of volunteers to be foster parents.

Over the past 15 years or so, Pedro Maldonado, Nigel Warren and Brieanna Hayes, all now in their 20s, cumulatively lived in about 39 different foster homes in New York City. Pedro, who is Italian, was lucky: He ultimately settled in with a caring Mexican family for more than a decade before he aged out of the system and began living on his own.foster parents

Nigel and Brieanna had a harder time of it.

In one house, Nigel found himself subjected to a painful and relentless competition with another foster child who was favored for his good grades and athleticism. Once Nigel got into a fight with his foster father that became physical, and the foster father bit him.

Brieanna said that her best foster mother was a drug addict who, despite everything, really cared about her. Brieanna, who is gay, entered the system when she was 14 and immediately faced hostility from the guardians who could not abide her sexuality.

In one situation, Brieanna was not allowed to use the washing machine. During the holidays, she would be asked to leave to create room for extended family, which left her on the streets.

Despite the prevalence of such Dickensian anecdotes, New York City’s foster care system has been considered an enormous success in recent years, a potential model for the rest of the country where thousands of children suspended in the opioid crisis have required an ever greater number of caregivers.

During the past quarter-century, the city’s Administration for Children’s Services has reduced the foster population from 50,000 children to fewer than 9,000, through a focus on preventive services that strives to keep biological families together.

And yet, the broader problem of inequality along with the various hurdles imposed by bureaucracy can collude to impair how and where children might be placed, leaving the project of foster care another social burden assumed largely by the less affluent.

It is one of the essential paradoxes of life in New York that you are much more likely to find a foster parent in a small apartment belonging to the New York City Housing Authority than in a triplex on West End Avenue with its own gym.

How to attract a wider range of people to the work is a perennial question, Kerry Moles told me. Ms. Moles is the executive director of CASA-NYC, an organization whose volunteers are assigned by judges to help children in foster care and those who age out. (Pedro, Nigel and Brieanna are members of the organization’s youth leadership council, working with young people and educating judges and lawyers about the experience of growing up in the system.)

It would be easy to say that the problem lies with the selfish habits of the upper classes; however charitable they might be when it comes to writing checks to well-meaning foundations, they are all too happy to insulate themselves from the messiness of life beyond the bubble.

While there is obviously truth to that kind of judgment, it is also the case that the rigidity of the foster-care system can keep well-meaning people away.

Consider the example of Sara Beth Turner, a photographer in her 30s, who lives alone in a brownstone apartment in Brooklyn with that rarest of assets, an empty second bedroom. Inspired by the mission of her church, Trinity Grace, in Williamsburg, a congregation filled with young, creative people like her, she was moved to foster a teenager. About a third of the city’s foster population is made up of children over 13, and they are always the hardest to place.

NYTimes.com, January 17, 2020 By Ginia Bellefante

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Croatian court allows gay couple to become foster parents

Croatian court

A Croatian gay couple are set to become foster parents after a landmark ruling by a Zagreb court, local media reported. The couple filed a lawsuit after authorities abruptly rejected their bid to foster children.

A Croatian court in Zagreb paved the way for a same-sex couple to foster children in Croatia, overruling a previous rejection by a child welfare center, according to Croatian media.Croatian court

“We are overjoyed,” one of the men, Ivo Segota, told the Jutarnji list daily.

Segota entered a so-called life partnership with Mladen Kozic in 2015. In 2017, they applied to become foster parents with the Zagreb Social Services Center.

“We were received very warmly and nicely … because Zagreb has a chronic deficit of foster homes, especially those who have the conditions and desire to foster several children, which forces the centers to separate biological siblings,” Segota said.

Despite successfully passing multiple tests, the center unexpectedly broke off communication and eventually rejected their plea. The provided explanation, according to Segota, was that there were no legal conditions for them to become foster parents as a life partnership couple.

The couple appealed the decision to the Family Ministry, but their appeal was rejected. They then sued against the decision.

Under Croatian law, same-sex marriages are not allowed. Life partnerships are equal with heterosexual marriages in all aspects except one — adopting children. The couple’s attorney, Sanja Bezbradica Jelavic, argued that keeping the two from becoming foster parents amounted to discrimination.

DM.com, December 20, 2019

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Opinion – The Latest Victims of Trump’s Cruelty? Foster Children and Gay Families

gay foster

An administration proposal would make it easier to discriminate against gay families who want to adopt through the foster care system.

“I know a way out of hell,” says Ben Kingsley, as Mohandas Gandhi, in Richard Attenborough’s 1982 film.

He’s speaking to a Hindu man who has killed a Muslim child, to even the score after his own son has been murdered.gay foster

“Find a child, a child whose mother and father were killed, and raise him as your own. Only be sure that he is a Muslim, and that you raise him as one.”

The first time I saw that movie, 37 years ago, that scene took my breath away, and not only because of Mr. Kingsley’s performance, for which he won an Academy Award. What has also lingered with me is the idea that the mission of parenthood is not to raise a child to be another version of you, but to help that child become himself or herself.

Donald Trump probably hasn’t seen that movie — or if he has, its message was lost on him. That would explain why his administration is enacting policies that enshrine discrimination and cruelty in foster care and adoption for gay families.

On any given day in this country, close to 440,000 children are in foster care, awaiting reunification with their original families or placement with new adoptive parents. You’d think that any qualified parents willing to make the enormous commitment to bringing a foster child into their home would be welcomed, hailed as heroes.

But then maybe you forgot the Trump mantra: Cruelty always comes first.

Incredibly, this is never so true as when children are concerned. We’ve seen it at the border, where immigrant children are separated from their parents and put in cages. We’ve seen it in the decimation of the Education Department, whose budget he has attempted to cut for three years running.

And we see it in a new policy under consideration to make it easier for adoption agencies to discriminate against parents — against non-Christians, against same-sex couples, against anyone, really, who doesn’t fit the agencies’ particular definition of what makes a family.

In January, the administration granted a waiver to Miracle Hill Ministries in South Carolina, exempting it from the Obama-era requirement that adoption agencies receiving federal funding must be accepting of all families. Which means that Miracle Hill — the state’s largest provider of foster families for children who don’t have significant special needs — can now turn away non-Christian foster parents and mentors, and anyone else who doesn’t pass muster.

NYTimes.com, By

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Civil rights groups sue over Trump foster care policies

Civil rights groups are filing a lawsuit against the Trump foster care policies and the state of South Carolina, alleging the governments are making it easier for taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against same-sex and non-evangelical couples.

Thursday’s lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Lambda Legal was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on behalf of a married lesbian couple. Eden Rogers and Brandy Welch were turned away by Miracle Hill Ministries, South Carolina’s largest state-contracted, federally-funded foster care agency.  The suit targets Trump foster care policies.Trump foster care policies

The lawsuit comes after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) earlier this year granted a waiver to a faith-based adoption agency in South Carolina that allows it to continue turning away same-sex and non-Christian couples while receiving federal money.

The ACLU and Lambda Legal said the federal waiver means the administration is condoning discrimination, and the lawsuit said the use of religious eligibility criteria is unconstitutional.

“This practice harms vulnerable children by denying them access to the loving families they desperately need and limits opportunities for would-be foster parents to participate in the public child welfare system on the basis of religion and sexual orientation,” the lawsuit said.

According to the groups, in order to foster through Miracle Hill, a family must agree with Miracle Hill’s “doctrinal statement,” including “that God’s design for marriage is the legal joining of one man and one woman in a life-long covenant relationship.”

Miracle Hill has said they refer couples who do not meet their criteria to other agencies, but the lawsuit noted those other couples are offered only a limited set of options, and are excluded from the state’s largest agency with potentially the most support to offer adoptive couples.

“Trump’s HHS and South Carolina should not be permitting foster care agencies that receive taxpayer money to care for wards of the state to disqualify potential foster parents because they don’t conform to a religious litmus test,” said Currey Cook, counsel at Lambda Legal. “Agencies have no right to exclude families because of their faith or sexual orientation.”

Recent reports suggest the administration is planning to release a new rule as early as this summer that would make it easier for federally-funded foster care facilities to deny services to same-sex couples.

TheHill.com, May 30, 2019, by Matthew Weixal

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