A Sangamon County judge has ruled that the state can decline to renew its contract with Catholic Charities in Illinois to provide foster care and adoption services, meaning children can be transferred to other social service agencies.
“No citizen has a recognized legal right to a contract with the government,” Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Schmidt wrote in the ruling released Thursday, just one day after hearing oral arguments from lawyers representing four Catholic Charities agencies and the state.
Lawyers for Catholic Charities had urged him to prevent the state from severing a partnership that has provided publicly funded foster care and adoption services in Illinois for four decades.
During the hearing, Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Schmidt focused on whether the state violated the property rights of Catholic Charities in Joliet, Peoria, Springfield and Belleville when it declined to sign new contracts that would have funded foster care and adoption services during the next fiscal year. Previous contracts expired June 30.
Lawyers for the Illinois Attorney General argued that Catholic Charities policy of licensing only married couples and single parents living alone as foster parents, while referring couples in civil unions to other agencies, violates state anti-discrimination laws that now accommodate couples in civil unions.
But lawyers for Catholic Charities argued that the agencies had a reasonable expectation that the contracts wouldn't end without sufficient warning or a public hearing, given the decades that they have existed and the infrastructure that has been built around them.
Schmidt said Catholic Charities’ history does not entitle them to an automatic renewal of contracts. They are “not required to perform these useful and beneficial services,” he said.