UK Foster Parents Retire Rather Than "Promote Homosexuality"

BlogHer Original Post

It's being touted alternately as a case of political correctness taken too far and just desserts for a bigoted couple, but what it comes down to is this: After fostering 28 children over the past six years, Vincent and Pauline Matherick have chosen to retire as foster parents rather than sign new sexual equality regulations.

To do so, they claim, would force them to promote homosexuality and go against their Christian faith.

The Mathericks are ministers at their local church, and despite an unblemished record in fostering were told that they would be relieved of their posts if they refused to sign, and so elected to retire, instead.

Officials told the couple that under the regulations they would be required to discuss same-sex relationships with children as young as 11 and tell them that gay partnerships were just as acceptable as heterosexual marriages.

They could also be required to take teenagers to gay association meetings.

When the Mathericks objected, they were told they would be taken off the register of foster parents.

The Mathericks have decided to resign rather than face the humiliation of being expelled.

Mr Matherick, a 65-year-old retired travel agent and a primary school governor, said: "I simply could not agree to do it because it is against my central beliefs.

While I appreciate what the new regulations are intended to do -- protect and provide for young people in the foster system who are gay -- I'm at a loss to feel angry with the Mathericks, here. They have a set of beliefs. They felt that these new rules conflicted with those beliefs, even though their core beliefs are obviously such that they feel compelled to open their homes to needy kids, and their track record therein is impeccable. I obviously don't know the intricacies of the foster care system in the UK, but here in the US there's a critical shortage of qualified foster parents.

And don't even get me started on how anyone fertile can become a parent with no questions ased, but foster and adoptive parents have to prove their worth before they're allowed to bring a child into their homes.

Do I wish the Mathericks could wholeheartedly agree to support any homosexual child placed in their care? Absolutely. Do I think their religious beliefs preventing them from swearing to do so should make them unfit for foster parenting? I'm not sure. I think it makes them a poor match for a kid who's gay, sure. And if you're talking about a long-term care relationship maybe that's something that would be difficult to foresee, but I also know plenty of people who had less-than-enlightened ideas about homosexuality until it was their own, beloved child who came out to them. Again, ideally every foster parent -- nay, every parent -- will have no biases, but is this something to legislate?

PoorGrrl fears the forces at work here:

This is a shocking story. There's nothing more Orwellian than government officials entering people's homes and telling them what to teach their children. Granted, the Mathericks were foster parents who, like all foster parents, have to abide by state standards. But how does not approving of homosexuality suddenly make them unfit when they weren't unfit for the last six years?

In response to the report that an 11-year-old boy was "yanked" from the Mathericks' care due to this situation, blogger Cranmer believes the punishment far outweighs the crime, with the child left to pay the price:

The young boy is a pawn in a grotesque assertion of the power of the state. Despite Somerset Council stating that ‘it is committed to promoting the interests of children and young people’, its social services department is not even prepared to wait until alternative foster parents can be found: the boy will be placed in a council hostel this week, and the Mathericks will no longer be given children to look after. Understandably, the young boy is upset, and the Mathericks are being treated as if they were themselves guilty of sexual abuse.

And wrenching the boy from a loving family environment and placing him in a loveless council hostel is in his best interests, is it?

Interestingly, despite multiple reports that this last foster child was immediately removed from the Mathericks' home, malvino claims The Daily Mail got it wrong:

And then thre's this, an on the record and official response from Somerset County Council.

Daily Mail says: "Vincent and Pauline Matherick will this week have their latest foster son taken away because they have refused to sign new sexual equality regulations."

Response is: "No children have been removed from them because of an issue relating to equalities and there are no plans to remove children for this reason."

Daily Mail says: "The 11-year-old boy, who has been in their care for two years, will be placed in a council hostel this week and the Mathericks will no longer be given children to look after."

Response says: "No children of any age in the care of Somerset County Council are placed in a hostel."

There are a loads more, you can pick out your personal favorites.

I love the second comment on the Mail article from Mike in Dunstable "you could't make this stuff up". Well Mike, apparently you can, and they did.

Most of the blog buzz in response to the Matherick story is from right-leaning Christians. The one discussion I found on a self-identified lesbian's blog was over at Shit & Spin, where author badbritney offers a cogent argument for why the Mathericks were just plain wrong:

The Mathericks particularly objected to the idea of taking foster teens to gay association meetings if requested. In my opinion, any good Christian should be able to do that – even if they themselves choose not to participate. If they cannot, then they ARE discriminating and they are ‘homophobic’. It is not a pleasant word to be labelled with, certainly, but it stands for all and any who believe that gay people are somehow ‘different’, ‘wrong’, or ‘stranded from the Lord’. In this respect, many Christians are homophobic – something that isn’t necessarily a problem unless minors are involved.

[...]

Quite simply - if your belief system is more important than the child in your care, you should not be on the fostering register because fostering is about PUTTING CHILDREN FIRST. Above religion. Above culture. Above personal preferences, ethics and values.

I think badbritney's reasoning is sound, theoretically. In practice, I wonder how many parents (foster or no) are perfect and selfless enough to always put their children first in this way. I'm left with so many questions. How many abusive and/or otherwise harmful foster parents are "flying under the radar" in the foster care system while this couple is making news? How do we decide what we get to legislate, when it comes to our kids? Are the Mathericks truly unfit to parent?

Contributing Editor Mir also blogs about issues parental and otherwise at Woulda Coulda Shoulda and Cornered Office, as well as sharing the joys of mindful retail therapy at Want Not.

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