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The Lesson: Discriminate quietly

There’s been some activity in the case of the Muslim woman whose foster care application was denied. If you want the backstory, check out my first blog post: Turning down a helping hand.

In a nutshell: Tashima Crudup, a Muslim, enrolled with Contemporary Family Services (CFS) to become a foster care parent. She was in foster care for a time as a child, and she wanted to help others the way she herself had once been helped. CFS is a private agency licensed by the state to help train and approve foster parents.

After completing the fifty-hour-plus training course, Ms. Crudup’s application was denied because her religious beliefs prohibit pork products in her home. Note that Ms. Crudup would not prohibit her foster children from eating pork products anywhere else in the world (ballgame, movie theater, friends’ houses, etc…). Furthermore, Ms. Crudup pledged to help children placed in her care observe their own religious beliefs.

The ACLU of Maryland got involved, and helped Ms. Crudup file a complaint with the Baltimore City Community Relations Commission. That got the ball rolling, and the state has now twice cited CFC regarding their discrimination against Ms. Crudup. The state gets an A+ for quick action.

The Maryland Department of Human Resources Office of Licensing and Monitoring (OLM) is responsible for licensing foster care agencies in Maryland. It has been attempting to work with CFS–through its executive director, Dr. John Monroe–to get its house in order, but CFS is stubborn. CFS filed a Corrective Action Plan Response Form with OLM, and this confirms everything bad that I think about CFS. Read for yourself:

CFS denies that it discriminated against Ms. Crudup in its decision to deny her certification as a CFS foster parent. It was within the judgment of the home study writer and the home study supervisor that Ms. Crudup would not be a suitable parent for CFS. As stated in the letter subsequent to the home study, there were concerns about Ms. Crudups [sic] ability to provide the needed flexibility in dealing with the level of youth placed in the care of CFS. What is “clear” from the home study and subsequent letters in that Ms. Crudups [sic] religion may be the reason that she does not allow pork in her home but her religion was not the reason that she was denied. The homestudy states “there is an indication that a foster child may not benefit from placement in this home and the placement may be problematic as the result of the families’ strong, religiously/culturally-based restrictions. There may be an imbalance between the needs of the family, particularly the families’ explicit prohibition of pork or pork products in their home, and the needs and/or desires of any child placed.” This was a nice way of saying that the views of Ms. Crudup lacked the level of flexibility necessary to work with the high level children in the care of CFS. This was further explained in my letter to Ms. Crudup when I specifically stated “your explicit prohibition of pork or pork products showed a persistent inflexibility that may be present in other views you may have when working with the abused and neglected youth (who also often have oppositional/defiant behavior and lack of emotional and anger controls) often placed within the care of CFS”. I also wrote “during the interview, where we get the greatest feel for whether a parent will be an effective CFS treatment foster parent, you expressed an explicit and unyielding position. This, in and of itself, raised a red flag with the home study consultant. She requested follow-up information about your position and even with further questioning, you remained unyielding.” Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, your OLM response fails to quote any other parts of the documentation that was submitted to you as well as to Ms. Crudup. Our seeming fault in this is not that we denied Ms. Crudup but that we were specific in explaining the nature of the conversation from which her unyielding position was based, what is “clear” is that had we simply stated that she was overly obstinate, or stubborn, or uncompromising with being specific to the actual conversation, we would have no need for this Corrective Action Plan. (Emphasis added).

So, there you have it. CFS tells us that that their big mistake was to explain the discriminatory reason for the denial (though, they still deny that it is discriminatory). Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, CFS thinks that their reasons for denying the application are sound where Ms. Crudup’s attitude reflected an “explicit and unyielding” opinion” about her refusal to allow pork products in her home. That attitude is possibly indicative of other inflexible views created by Ms. Crudup’s strong religiously/culturally-based restrictions. And, those restrictions are at odds with the specific population of children that CFS places into homes, who often have oppositional behavior. CFS is absolutely right that flexibility is important to parenting.

CFS is dead wrong about most other things, though. First, CFS doesn’t state what other inflexible views might be present that could seriously hamper Ms. Crudup’s ability to raise children.

Second, CFS essentially argues that flexibility is of paramount importance, neglecting the opposite consideration that some level of values and structure (which, by their nature, can be inflexible) may be beneficial to children, particularly those with oppositional behaviors or disorders.  Children crave structure, and if Ms. Crudup provides a structured environment, children may very well thrive there.

Third, CFS states that it did not discriminate against Ms. Crudup, but it plainly did. The worker who did the homestudy didn’t like the fact that Ms. Crudup was adamant about her religious beliefs (which the State of Maryland has since condoned through its citations to CFS), and used those beliefs as a basis to believe Ms. Crudup is inflexible. Well, of course she was. She has every right to be “inflexible” on that issue. The fact is that CFS determined Ms. Crudup is unfit because she chooses to follow her religious beliefs. That’s unlawful and despicable discrimination.

Appropriately, the ACLU of Maryland attorney handling the case, Ajmel Quereshi, has asked the OLM to take steps to ensure that CFS does not discriminate in the future. Hopefully they can craft a solution, but based on its own statement I fear that CFS has learned the wrong lesson: “discriminate quietly.”

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5 comments

  1. I’m still not convinced. Children with ODD are tough placements and it sounds like that’s what CFS was primarily concerned about. An explicit prohibition of something like pork could be fertile ground for rebellion in such a child. If he knows he’s not allowed to have it, he brings it home again and again and basically sets the placement up for failure. Honestly I can see CFS’ point.

  2. Nefertari barnes

    It is silly to tell the head of the household what her family should cook in her pots. Would this rule hold with a mother who’s family eats kosher products??? I absolutely cannot see their point.

  3. Well, technically they’re not telling her what she can cook in her pots. She’s free to cook whatever she likes so long as she’s not interested in fostering a special needs child.

  4. This is ridiculous. I’m familiar with this agency and they have very discriminatory and unethical business practices. Thy have no business denying parents due to their religious preference when they allow foster parents who are living public housing and senior citizen homes.

  5. This is ridiculous. I’m familiar with this agency and they have very discriminatory and unethical business practices. They have no business denying parents due to their religious preference when they allow foster parents who are living public housing and senior citizen homes.