A Letter from our Chief Executive Officer
My name is Andrea Seyka and I am the Chief Executive Officer at St. Vincent Catholic Charities (STVCC). I wanted to better explain recent actions STVCC has taken to help us continue to serve the most vulnerable children in our community, as I realize some of you may be conflicted or have further concerns.
For over 70 years, St. Vincent has been a pillar in providing comprehensive services in Michigan. What once started as a temporary home for children has grown into much more. We continue to meet the ever-changing needs of the community through our programs and services: adoption, foster care, our children’s home, refugee resettlement, counseling and our immigration law clinic. Our mission is the work of the Catholic Church. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” We exist to help those in our community that are most in need – the helpless and the vulnerable.
You may have heard in the news that in March, the Michigan Attorney General signed a settlement agreement with the ACLU requiring the state to implement a new policy that is contrary to state law that governs faith-based agencies like ours. If the state succeeds in enforcing this policy, it would mean longer waits for children seeking adoptions, more children aging out of the system without ever finding a permanent home, less support for foster and adoptive families and would close down Catholic foster and adoption programs across Michigan.
In 2015, Michigan passed a law to ensure faith-based child welfare agencies could continue to operate, since these agencies help to support families and ensure the greatest number of homes for children. Now, the Attorney General is trying to undermine that law and forbid partnership with faith-based foster care and adoption agencies like STVCC because of their religious beliefs.
In order to protect foster families and agencies like STVCC, we have joined with Chad and Melissa Buck, who adopted five special needs children through STVCC, and Shamber Flore, who went from a background of abuse and tragedy to a loving adoptive home and a promising future thanks to STVCC. In this new case, Buck v. Gordon, we are seeking a court order to allow faith-based adoption agencies to continue what they do best: uniting children with loving families. I know many of you had questions about this case and our involvement, so I’m addressing some of those below.
- We are represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (Becket). It is important you know Becket is representing STVCC at absolutely no cost. Donor dollars continue to support our programs which serve the most vulnerable among us: immigrants, refugees, those seeking mental health counseling, and children healing from abuse and neglect.
- We do this work as the charitable arm of the Diocese of Lansing, and must operate our programs in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church. The Catholic faith calls on us to perform works of mercy and to treat every human being with dignity and respect.
- STVCC serves a diverse array of clients through its many programs, including those who identify as LGBTQ, in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church. These clients include refugees who flee their homelands because of persecution and find safety through our resettlement program. Individuals in need of immigration legal services find it through our Immigration Law Clinic. Children who identify as LGBTQ heal as residents of our children’s home and individuals seeking help and hope from our counseling services are served regardless of their sexual orientation.
- The conflict in this lawsuit surrounds a small aspect of the foster care and adoption process: specifically, the way in which agencies are required to evaluate and make written endorsements about adult relationships of couples it is recommending the state place children with.
- There is no shortage of opportunities for same-sex couples to foster or adopt in Michigan, and STVCC has never prevented same-sex couples from doing so. If STVCC is unable to work with a couple due to its religious beliefs, consistent with the state law, it provides the couple with a list of other area agencies who do not share STVCC’s religious beliefs and could better serve their needs.
- Adoptive and foster families are not expected to share STVCC’s religious beliefs. STVCC regularly serves children who identify as LGBTQ through its children’s programs and welcomes same-sex or unmarried couples to attend foster and adoptive parent support groups that STVCC facilitates. However, as a Catholic organization, we cannot provide a written recommendation to the State endorsing a family situation that would conflict with our religious beliefs. Thus, we cannot provide written recommendations and endorsements of unmarried or LGBTQ couples as foster or adoptive parents.
There are approximately 13,000 children in foster care in Michigan and not enough foster homes for them. As a Catholic agency, we want to continue our mission to serve the most vulnerable. Therefore, in order to continue to serve children who have survived abuse and neglect, we are joining with foster and adoptive families to ask the courts to protect our right to live out our faith and serve those in need.
Please know we need your support now, more than ever.
Andrea E. Seyka
Chief Executive Officer