Charity regulator denies adoption agency lifeline

A bid by a Roman Catholic adoption agency to continue placing children with married couples only has been rejected by the Charity Commission.

The Catholic Children’s Society in Westminster wanted to clarify its ‘charitable objects’ – the official description of its purposes – to refer explicitly to placing children only with married heterosexual couples.

It had hoped that by specifically describing its Roman Catholic character in its objects it would be allowed to continue placing children according to the Church’s official teaching on marriage.

However, the Charity Commission has turned down the request.

The Society sought the clarification in a bid to retain its Roman Catholic ethos without breaking new ‘gay rights’ laws.

The regulations outlaw discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation when providing a good or a service, which means agencies must consider adoption applications from same-sex couples.

Although Roman Catholic adoption agencies urged the Government to grant an exemption that would allow them to continue limiting joint adoptions to married couples, this was refused.

As a result, several agencies have cut long-standing ties with their dioceses, while others have capitulated to the new rules.

The Westminster agency has made clear its intention to continue placing children with married couples only.

It has until the end of 2008 to comply with the regulations, after which it may have to defend its position in court.

Commenting on the Charity Commission’s decision, Jim Richards, the director of the Society, said: “There are still avenues to explore and objective decisions to be made. We will have to look at all this in the clear light of day.”

He added: “Underlining all this, of course, is our wish to continue as a Catholic agency within the diocese carrying out the teaching of the Church. That is the wish of the trustees.”

Each year the Westminster Catholic Children’s Society supports 3,000 children, young people and their families through a network of services.

It also finds families for about 15 ‘hard-to-place’ children who are disabled or have emotional or behavioural problems.