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Homosexuals Challenge State Policy To Limit Foster Child Placements

January 30, 1986

BOSTON (AP) _ A homosexual couple whose two foster children were taken away by state officials filed suit Thursday, seeking to overturn a new state policy that virtually bars gay men and women from serving as foster parents.

Donald Babets and David Jean filed the class-action suit in Suffolk Superior Court against Gov. Michael S. Dukakis and other officials. The suit alleges that their policy ″irrationally and arbitrarily″ presumes that a ″traditional″ family setting is the best placement for every foster child.

Cathcart’s group and the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts filed the suit on behalf of Babets and Jean, plus two women who each sought foster children and the National Association of Social Workers.

They are seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from continuing to use the revised criteria for foster home placements. No court action is expected for at least a month.

The lawsuit contends that the criteria, which place all unmarried childless people in the least likely category to receive foster children, is discriminatory. Forcing foster parent applicants to state their sexual preference in writing also is a violation of their right to privacy, according to the suit.

Dukakis’ press office declined to comment on the case. Kenneth Schwartz, general counsel to the state Executive Office of Human Services, also refused to discuss any specifics of the lawsuit.

Gay rights advocates have staged sit-ins outside Dukakis’ office and picketed some of his appearances to protest the foster care policy. It was hastily developed last May after newspaper stories about two brothers, age 3 1/2 and just under 2, who were placed with Babets and Jean.

After the publicity, the children were removed from the couple. One was later placed with a family in New Bedford, and county authorities there say they are now investigating reports that the child might have been the victim of child abuse in the new home.

The new state policy calls for married couples with experience being parents to be first in line for foster-parent posts. Couples without child- rearing experience or single people with such experience are the second priority. The third and final group includes individuals without child-rearing experience.

The policy also requires the Department of Social Services commissioner to give written approval to any placements in the third category and to ask all applicants to state their sexual preference or orientation, which critics charge amounts to a ban on gay foster parents.

State officials, faced by a waiting list of about 600 children who need foster homes, have advertised to find married couples who would accept the children. Despite the foster home shortage, Human Services Secretary Philip Johnston said ″it ain’t going to happen″ when asked late last year about further placements with homosexuals.

Cathcart said Massachusetts was the only state that effectively bans foster placements with otherwise qualified homosexuals, although New Hampshire is considering such a move.

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