March 22, 2019
LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel today announced a settlement with the plaintiffs in Dumont et al. v Gordon et al. (Case No. 2:17-cv-13080), a case centering on some state-contracted foster care and adoption agencies’ (agencies) refusal to work with same-sex couples or LGBTQ individuals wanting to foster or adopt children referred to the agencies by the state Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). A summary of the settlement can be found here. A copy of the settlement can be found here.
“Discrimination in the provision of foster care case management and adoption services is illegal, no matter the rationale,” said Nessel. “Limiting the opportunity for a child to be adopted or fostered by a loving home not only goes against the state’s goal of finding a home for every child, it is a direct violation of the contract every child placing agency enters into with the state.”
Two same-sex couples (plaintiffs) filed a complaint in September 2017 challenging MDHHS’s contracts with taxpayer-funded, state-contracted foster care and adoption agencies that refuse to provide contract services involving same-sex couples. The complaint alleged that the plaintiffs approached St. Vincent Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services directly to adopt children the agencies had accepted through referrals from MDHHS. The plaintiffs claimed the agencies refused to work with them in violation of the non-discrimination provisions in the agencies’ contracts with MDHHS.
According to MDHHS, each agency was providing foster care case management or adoption services for one or more children referred to them by MDHHS. Because the plaintiffs were not seeking direct-placement or private adoption services and because they were not referred to the agencies through MDHHS, the agencies could not reject them under existing state law.
When AG Nessel took office Jan. 1, 2019, she reviewed the facts of the case with her team of legal experts and determined that MDHHS could be subject to liability on the claims of the plaintiffs. As a result, the Attorney General strongly recommended resolving the case on terms consistent with the law and existing agency contracts and that best serve the health, safety and well-being of children in need of state-contracted foster care case management and adoption services.
The plaintiffs and the Michigan Department of Attorney General, on behalf of its client MDHHS, entered into negotiations and agreed to settle the case. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, MDHHS agrees to maintain non-discriminatory provisions in its foster care and adoption agency contracts. MDHHS also agrees to enforce the non-discrimination provisions up to and including termination when a state-contracted agency discriminates against same-sex couples or LGBTQ individuals that may otherwise be qualified foster care or adoptive parents for any child accepted by the agency for services under contract with MDHHS. The agreement also specifies that MDHHS is not required to take adverse action against an agency on the basis that the agency has decided not to accept a referral from MDHHS.
MDHHS has established an online complaint form for individuals who believe they’ve been a victim of illegal practices by an adoption facility, agency or provider. Individuals can fill out a complaint here.