Vermont State Foster Care Agency Turns Away Christian Couples Because of Biblical Beliefs

Vermont State Foster Care Agency Turns Away Christian Couples Because of Biblical Beliefs

Two Christian couples from Vermont have filed a lawsuit against the state Department for Children and Families (DCF) after the agency allegedly revoked their foster care licenses because they upheld their biblical beliefs and refused to accept transgender ideology.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit legal group, represents Brian and Kaitlyn Wuoti and Michael and Rebecca Gantt, who have alleged that the Vermont DCF has “enforced its ideological position at the expense of children.”

“Vermont's foster care system is in crisis: There are not enough families to care for at-risk children, and drug-addicted children have no home. Yet Vermont puts its ideological agenda above the needs of these suffering children,” said Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse, legal counsel for ADF.

Dr. John DeGarmo, a leading expert on foster care and director of the Foster Care Institute, explains that there are approximately 450,000 children in foster care in the United States and that this faith-based litmus test only prevents children from finding stable homes.

“There are more and more children in need, but there is a shortage of foster parents and foster homes. Our states and the federal government cannot address or solve this problem alone,” he explained. “Many foster parents say their faith plays an important role in their foster parenting. If religious organizations and people of faith are discouraged from helping children in the foster care system, we will lose a large percentage of foster parents and support services.”

Michael Bryan Gantt is the senior pastor of Agape Christian Fellowship in Battleboro, Vermont. He and his wife, Rebecca, have adopted three infants from the state in addition to their four biological children.

“The Bible says that God is our heavenly Father who has adopted us into his family, and we wanted to reflect that in our own lives,” Gantt said.

Last September, the youth welfare office contacted the couple and asked if they would be interested in adopting a boy who was to be born to a homeless drug addict.

“The entire department agrees that you are the perfect home and the first choice,” the Gantts were told by their resource coordinator, according to National Review.

Before they could take the child into their home, however, the agency told them they had to accept the state's views on gender ideology, “even if the foster parents have differing personal opinions or beliefs,” the lawsuit says.

“The Gantts responded that they would unconditionally love and support any child entrusted to their care, but they would not give up their religious belief that people should value their God-given bodies,” the lawsuit states. “The department denied the Gantts permission to take the needy baby and instead revoked their license.”

Meanwhile, Brian Wuoti, pastor of Valley Town Church in Wilmington, Vermont, and his wife Katy, who received their license from Vermont DCF in 2015 and adopted two children through the agency, received a “notice recommending that their license be revoked” in April 2022.

The couple said they could not agree with the department's policy, which requires parents to “support their children's identities even if it feels uncomfortable.”

“Essentially, the policy requires foster parents to agree to lie to their children and tell them that they can change their gender,” the ADF said in a statement.

In its complaint, ADF argued that DCF's practices not only harm a child's chance of finding a permanent home, but also violated foster parents' First Amendment rights.

“By categorically excluding the Wuotis and the Gantts from receiving child protection services because of their religious beliefs, the mandate unjustifiably discriminates on the basis of religion and treats the Wuotis and the Gantts less favorably than similarly situated persons who do not share their religious beliefs,” the lawsuit states.

The Wuoti and Gantt families are asking a federal court to rule on whether the state's policy and its enforcement are unconstitutional and to overturn it so that it does not prevent the placement of children with foster parents who disagree with the policy.

Actress and foster care activist Jen Lilley told CBN News in a statement that the Vermont Department for Children and Family Services' decision to revoke the Wuotis and Gantts' licenses was a wake-up call for the entire nation.

“This measure not only violates our constitutional rights, but also jeopardizes the well-being of children who desperately need a safe, loving home,” she said. “The government decides it is safer for a child to remain in a dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation than to live in a home with Christian faith? Make that understandable.”

Lilley added: “There should be room for every safe home at the table. If we allow Christians to be stripped of their opportunity to foster and adopt children, who is next? The Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Mormon or atheist families? This can happen to people of any faith if we allow it. Families that can provide safety and stability should be open to foster children without fear of discrimination based on religious beliefs. We must not allow fear to push aside common sense and leave children in harmful situations.”

Vermont DCF has publicly stated that while it cannot comment on pending litigation, it “takes the care and support of the youth in our care seriously and is committed to ensuring that youth in foster care are placed with families that support them in all aspects that make them who they are…including their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

According to WCAX-TV, there are currently about 958 children living in foster homes in Vermont.

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