CSSP and NCLR File Supreme Court Amicus Brief to Preserve Non-Discrimination Requirements in Child Welfare Services


Christopher Vasquez, NCLR Communications Director
415.365.1337 | cvasquez@nclrights.org

Jessica Pika, CSSP Communications Director
202.371.1565 | jessica.pika@cssp.org

WASHINGTON, DCYesterday, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) and National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) filed an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. The case involves the City of Philadelphia’s child welfare program, in which the City contracts with private agencies to provide foster care services and requires all contractors to refrain from discrimination when providing services on behalf of the City.

Catholic Social Services (CSS) filed suit, claiming a constitutional right to violate the City’s non-discrimination requirement. CSS is unwilling to certify same-sex couples as potential foster parents when providing services for the City.

The amicus brief from CSSP and NCLR highlights the government’s compelling interests in protecting children and eliminating discrimination in the child welfare system. The government’s interest in preventing discrimination is particularly urgent and important because experience and research have shown that nationwide, the current child welfare system is plagued by bias and discrimination based on race, national origin, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

“Any discrimination harms the children the state is charged with protecting and shatters the families the system is charged with preserving,” said Catherine Sakimura, NCLR Deputy Director and Family Law Director. “Bias can and does infect the system at any point.”

The brief notes that families of color, parents who are poor or with low incomes, parents with disabilities, and LGBTQ parents are far more likely to be investigated and to have their children removed from their homes based on bias and negative stereotypes, which causes great harm both to the children and to their families. As Professor Nancy Polikoff has written about, a study of Black mothers with low incomes in 2016 indicated that lesbian or bisexual participants were more than four times likelier than heterosexual participants to have lost their children to the state in child welfare proceedings.

Non-discrimination requirements are extremely important in the child welfare system because the stakes are so high, the brief explains. Decisions based on bias lead to children being taken away from their families when there is no valid reason to do so, and can also lead to children being placed in foster homes where they will encounter discrimination or even abuse.

“Without unbiased decision making, children cannot be guaranteed the care they require to grow into healthy and successful adults—and could in fact be placed in homes that create harmful and long-lasting barriers to their health and well-being,” said Bill Bettencourt, CSSP Senior Fellow. “A ruling requiring the City to allow discrimination in its child welfare program would turn the foundational principles of the child welfare system on their head.”  

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The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. Since its founding, NCLR has maintained a longstanding commitment to racial and economic justice and the LGBTQ community’s most vulnerable. http://www.nclrights.org


The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) works to achieve a racially, economically, and socially just society in which all children, youth, and families thrive. We translate ideas into action, promote public policies grounded in equity, and support strong and inclusive communities. We advocate with and for all children, youth, and families marginalized by public policies and institutional practices. Learn more at http:www.cssp.org