The Diocese of Peoria has announced that it is abandoning litigation and transferring all of its foster care and adoption operations, including children, case workers, supervisors and clinical services, to a new, separate entity. The new organization will not be bound by the religious tenets asserted by Catholic Charities, and instead will follow the law and DCFS’ mandate requiring that the state’s wards have the opportunity to be cared for by all potential caring and qualified foster and adoptive parents, including gays and lesbians.

The following can be attributed to Benjamin Wolf, Associate Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois:

This is a welcome development and demonstrates that finding safe, permanent homes for children in the care of DCFS – which should be everyone’s first concern - is an objective that can be accomplished without disruption and harm to children in the state’s care.

We urge the other Catholic Charities in Southern Illinois and Joliet to follow the lead of their affiliate in Peoria and promptly cooperate with DCFS to arrange for the planned transfer of state wards to agencies which do not discriminate in serving the state’s children.

This development also reinforces what professional child welfare systems and providers know-- children are best served when there are as many and as diverse placement opportunities as possible and that there is no child welfare basis to exclude gay people, as recognized by every major child welfare group. Gay and lesbian couples are able to parent just as well as heterosexual couples -- a fact proved true by peer reviewed social science and by the experience of thousands of couples across Illinois.

We hope this announcement also helps to address concerns that ending Catholic Charities programs necessarily must result in disrupting the lives of children in state care. Now is the time for all of us to re-focus all our energies on creating a first class child welfare system that serves all children and families in Illinois.