Does The Foster Care System Respect The Religious, Cultural, Dietary Practices Of Parents?

Let’s say a Jewish family has one of their kids taken into foster care because [reason]. Would the system tell the parents who foster her to provide her with a kosher diet? Or if a Catholic family loses custody, would the system try to place her with a family that takes her to mass every Sunday?

This is a tricky question. The legal parents have a constitutional right to reasonable accommodation of their child’s religion by the foster parents. On the other hand the state can’t force foster parents to violate their own religious beliefs, neither can the state “let” every potential foster home refuse the child because of the parent’s religious beliefs. It will be a very fine line drawn differently for each individual case.

Then there are some situations where the child has their own religious beliefs counter to their parents - for example a Jehova’s Witness loses custody of their child who does not want to be part of that sect. That’s a wholly different can of worms.


It looks like (based on some cursory Googling) that they attempt to do so, but there aren’t any guarantees, and that their primary concern is getting the children into foster homes, rather than worrying about religious points of order.

There are so-called “religious matching” statutes in some states, such as N.Y. SOS § 373(1).

You’re glossing over a major point by the generic “[reason]”. The specific reason can make a big difference. Specifically, is the foster care voluntary, or is it court-ordered?

If Child Protection/a Court takes a child into foster care because their fundamentalist christian parents belief in “spare the rod spoils the child” becomes abusive; then they would not care about anything except getting the child safe in a foster placement.

Whereas if the parent(s) are voluntarily placing the child in foster care due to financial limits, the placing agency will take the parents beliefs into consideration. (Usually, they’ll first look for relatives who could foster the child, and such relatives are likely to be of the same religious/cultural/etc. beliefs.)

I am wondering how respecting the religious beliefs of parents could possibly violate the foster parents religion. I mean, Christian foster parents might not be willing/able to provide a kosher diet for foster kids, but I can’t see how it would violate their religious beliefs to do so. Muslim foster parents wouldn’t attend Mass with a Catholic foster child - but I can’t see how their religion would prevent them from drop off/pick up. Change that- I can’t see how their religious beliefs would prevent that while still allowing them to take in the foster child of a different religion.

For example, I could also see monotheist foster families refusing to allow Hindu worship in their homes. Historically speaking, Evangelists considered religious pluralism to be heresy.


That’s kind of the reason I said “change that” - If you think religious pluralism is heresy, I don’t see how your religious beliefs allow that Hindu child to move in to begin with.

How old is the kid? Depending on state laws/regulations and the specifics of the situation, the foster parents may be on the hook for being with the child at all times out in public, so drop off/pick up isn’t an option; if the kid is going to Mass, one of the foster parents has to attend as well.