Mike and Kitty Burke, a Christian conservative couple from Massachusetts, have found themselves unable to adopt or foster children due to the state officials’ concern over their beliefs about gender and sexuality, particularly concerning LGBTQIA+ youth. This has led the Catholic couple to believe that this standard might eventually prevent all families with similar faith-based beliefs from fostering or adopting.
The Burkes, both highly active in their church and have struggled with infertility, long wished to provide a loving home to a foster child. Mike, an Iraq War veteran, and Kitty, a former paraprofessional for special-needs children, have undergone extensive interviews, home assessments, and training, demonstrating their understanding of trauma and PTSD. They were active in their training and were described as cooperative and insightful.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), over 1,521 children urgently need stable, caring parents, which makes the Burkes’ denial even more disheartening.
Linda-Jeanne Mack of 18 Degrees, who conducted the couple’s interviews, emphasized their views on sexuality. While the Burkes expressed acceptance and love for any child regardless of sexual orientation, they did maintain their religious beliefs about living a chaste life.
Mack’s report acknowledged the couple’s strengths but raised concerns about their ability to support LGBTQIA+ youth. She cited their faith as being unsupportive, leading to apprehension in recommending them. Officials within the DCF led to the outright denial of the couple’s application based on their responses to LGBTQIA-related issues.
Distraught by the decision, the Burkes stated they were devastated to learn their years of preparation and anticipation were in vain. They alluded to a reported issue of children sleeping in inappropriate places within DCF facilities.
Upon being denied, the Burkes requested a fair hearing and eventually determined legal action was necessary. The lawsuit emphasizes First Amendment rights violations and claims that the decision forces them to choose between their faith and becoming foster parents.
Named defendants in the lawsuit include Linda Spears, commissioner of the DCF, and Kate Walsh, the secretary of Massachusetts Health & Human Services. The suit seeks not only to prevent state officials from denying the Burkes’ foster care license but also compensatory damages and attorney fees.
Lori Windham of Becket, the firm representing the Burkes, expressed support for the Burkes and criticized Massachusetts’ actions, questioning how the state can justify leaving these families, and consequently the children in need, without support.