Adopting children through Oregon’s foster care system increasingly comes with ideological policing.
An Oregon widow recently filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s Department of Human Services (DHS) because officials won’t allow her to adopt children from the foster care system. Why won’t they let Jessica Bates adopt? Because she, as a practicing Christian, refuses to submit to gay and transgender ideologies.
Bates’s complaint is worth reading for anyone concerned about religious freedom. According to her complaint, Bates “initially progressed through the application process without any problems” until ideological insanity reared it ugly head.
DHS’s Foster Home Certification states that applicants “must … [r]espect, accept and support the race, ethnicity, cultural identities, national origin, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disabilities, spiritual beliefs, and socioeconomic status, of a child or young adult in the care or custody of the Department.”
Bates says she will not support homosexuality or transgenderism, as they are contrary to her religious beliefs. Nor would she play the pronoun game or assist with a potential “transition.”
Alas, this is neither new nor surprising to those of us in Oregon who have gone through the foster care or adoption processes and dealt with DHS and related bureaucracies.
My wife and I are Catholic. Unable to conceive, we considered adoption. Between 2000 and 2010, my wife and I were involved in five adoptions in Oregon. Three were successful, and two imploded when birth parents changed course at the eleventh hour.
We learned that adoptive and foster parents are, for all intents and purposes, at the very bottom of the pecking order. They have little to no control. Everyone else—the birth parents, the state, the agencies, the experts, the judges—are running the show and calling the shots. And our interactions with DHS convinced me that the agency is deeply opposed to traditional understandings of sexuality, family, and morality.
In 2010, we learned about a two-year-old boy in Arizona who needed a home after his birth mother, a drug addict, had dropped him off at the Human Services office. We were eventually chosen to be his adoptive parents, but state law required that we first become foster parents. So we attended a dozen two-hour classes at the local DHS office.
Two classes stood out: one on race and one on sexuality. The class on race could be summed up as: “If you’re white, you’re racist, even if you don’t know it yet.” We watched a video of minority children venting about their white, adoptive parents. Some in the class expressed confusion or even anger, but the expert instructors were not sympathetic to those concerns. We found this both troubling and ironic, as our then-10-year-old daughter was a mixed minority.
The class on sexuality was worse, even though—thankfully—transgenderism was not yet in vogue. The teacher clearly and repeatedly exhorted us not to judge or force any moral views or values on a foster child—even, say, a 14-year-old girl sleeping with her boyfriend—and, further, to encourage foster children to “explore” and be “open” to everything “gay.” We were encouraged to take children to “pride” events, and given specific events and dates. Rainbows, it was evident, pointed to happiness, while religion—well, it wasn’t mentioned.
We were fortunate. Our time as foster parents was temporary, and the adoption of our second son went through a few months later. However, there is no way we could be foster parents today here in Oregon—not because we don’t want to, but because, like Jessica Bates, we could not agree to DHS’s outrageous demands biased against traditional beliefs and believers.
Unfortunately, that was not our last experience with DHS.
In March 2020, a week before Oregon went into Covid lockdowns, our oldest son, who was 15, ran away from home. This came after months of escalating outbursts and increasingly erratic behavior on his part. We knew when we adopted him that there was a history of bipolar disorder and destructive behavior in his birth family. As he grew up, he became bolder in his lying, stealing, and other bad behaviors. We explored various options. We read extensively. We talked to counselors, doctors, and pastors. We tried a variety of approaches, ranging from not helpful to somewhat helpful. In the months leading up to him suddenly running away late at night, he would repeatedly—sometimes multiple times daily—tell us that he hated us. Then he started making serious threats toward us.
Unable to locate him after he ran away, I filed a report with the police. At noon the next day, two DHS workers arrived. Our son was in DHS custody, and he was accusing us of abuse. We spoke with the workers for a couple of hours. This was the start of a summer of insanity, a nightmare only made worse because of the Covid protocols. It culminated in DHS taking us to court in September, seeking to force us to undergo “mental health evaluations” and “psychological evaluations”.
Foregoing a blow-by-blow account (it would require a book), here are three key things we experienced and learned.
First, DHS’s bias is so thorough that the agency would not believe us or take us seriously, regardless of the evidence. Conversely, our son’s testimony, ranging from skewed to false, was accepted as true and often used in reports as factual in nature. I’m convinced that our Catholic faith was a strike against us. The prevailing assumption, from the start, was that we had in fact abused our son or physically mistreated him, even though no evidence existed and our other children denied it.
Meanwhile, our young case worker (working on her first case) referred to our son as “kiddo,” which continued even after he was arrested multiple times and received emergency care three times that summer due to drug use while living on the streets. She apparently thought he was misunderstood, and that soothing words and therapeutic tactics would provide the necessary fix. There was an obvious air of condescension, as though being a part of the agency somehow invested her with a knowledge of the child that the parents, who had spent fifteen years raising him, could not rival or attain.
Second, the problem wasn’t just DHS. After our son was arrested for menacing and possession of concealed weapons, processed, and placed in juvenile detention, I had a three hour interview with his parole officer. Despite the length of the conversation-turned-interrogation, I was never asked basic information about my background, our family, or what we had experienced. The skewed reports were the source material; my insistence on clarifying and correcting was, once again, viewed as either naive petulance or an attempt to avoid responsibility.
The fact that our son was home-schooled, the parole officer claimed, helped explain his “anti-social” behavior; home-schooled children, he remarked, are poorly adjusted and have all sorts of problems. I disagreed, and said the opposite is actually the case. He was annoyed by my response. He later stated, with complete confidence: “It’s clear that you have a very rigid understanding of family and authority.” His annoyance turned to obvious anger when I told him that we, in fact, had a reasonable and common-sensical approach to parenting and discipline.
Third, six months after our son had run away, an assistant attorney general from the Child Advocacy Section of the Oregon Department of Justice took us to court in an attempt to force my wife and me to undergo “mental health evaluations” and “psychological evaluations.” Officials said DHS and the Department of Justice couldn’t understand how parents who had “gone through training and skills development,” the classes we attended in 2010, were unable to provide the necessary treatment and supervision their son needed. Also, the assistant attorney general said, there “seems to be an overly negative perception towards this kid.”
This was after we had spent hours detailing the unique and complicated challenges presented by our son. Never mind the various approaches we had used, or our conviction that the usual techniques simply did not work with him.
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At the hearing, an assistant attorney general—again, relying on sloppy documents filled with errors and subjective claims—argued that our inability to control our son and the fact that he ran away indicated that we were the problem. Thus, we required evaluation by mental health professionals. My lawyer, in response, simply asked about the location of our son who had been under DHS authority for weeks: Where was he? State officials had to admit they didn’t know. Why not? Because our son, by that point, had broken out of two facilities and disappeared days before the hearing. The judge, recognizing both the irony and hypocrisy of the situation, dismissed the case.
Thankfully, DHS assigned a new case worker, who was far more experienced and commonsensical in his approach. Tensions eased. Our son was arrested a couple of more times—the last time with a concealed and loaded gun in his possession—and has now been in a juvenile correctional facility for eighteen months. I visit him on a regular basis, and he has started to demonstrate some growth in maturity and stability. Time will tell.
My lawyer, who has worked for years to force DHS and other agencies to be more transparent about their protocols and practices, once told me that one big problem is that DHS is a hammer that thinks every problem is a nail. And DHS almost always sees parents as the problems. Bureaucracy reigns, and group-think dominates. But, as Jessica Bates’s situation demonstrates, there are also deep ideological agendas involved. Children end up becoming pawns, and good people are pushed to the side, or worse. Traditional families and religious beliefs are treated with disdain. The truth, about everything from specific cases to human nature, is a casualty. Here’s hoping and praying that Bates is able to strike a blow for truth and create a permanent home for some children.