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Two Profiles in Courage

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Community-based nonprofit organizations are struggling for their organizational lives these days. The oppressive economic downturn has made it hard to keep their doors open to provide services while fundraising from private individuals and foundations has become downright Darwinian. Maintaining one's donor base is supremely critical for any struggling nonprofit group.

Which is exactly why the recent story of a tiny organization named Holy Family Adoption Services in Los Angeles is pretty courageous.

Holy Family Adoption Services provides adoption, foster care, and family support services for infants and toddlers who are often born into very high-risk situations and require placement into a loving home. Since 1949, they have been helping these children whose mothers have been victimized themselves by family violence, or who suffer from addiction, or who are just ill-prepared for motherhood.

For most of its organizational life, Holy Family Adoption Services operated in partnership with the Catholic Archdiocese in Los Angeles. It had the financial and in-kind support from the church as well as the support of many generous Catholic individuals and foundations - until it became known that the Holy Family Adoption Services staff placed a handful of the thousands of children it cared for with same-sex couples. The State of California prohibits discriminating against same-sex couples in adoption placement and Holy Family Adoption Services was abiding by that state law.

In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles made it clear that Holy Family would have to stop placing children with same-sex couples. Instead of giving in, the Holy Family Adoption Services board of directors ultimately decided that nothing was more important than providing loving and supportive homes for at-risk infants and children and that no otherwise qualified home should be closed to these children simply because of the gender and sexual orientation of the family members within it.

The Catholic Archdiocese withdrew their support, as did most Catholic donors. Holy Family Adoption Services was forced to lay off staff, reduce services, and seek new sources of support in the midst of an economic recession. 

Enter Bishop Jon Bruno of the Episcopal Diocese. When Bishop Bruno learned of Holy Family's courage and fate, he invited the organization to be housed under the auspices of his church. This kept the organization alive.

But Holy Family Adoption Services valiantly limps on, and the organization requires new sources of support to continue on with their mission. Last month, our foundation provided a $50,000 grant to the organization, but much more is needed.

While civic and public discourse these days seems to be dominated by scapegoating, intolerance, and even hate - Arizona's anti-immigration legislation and California's Prop. 8 battle embody such activity - we want to take a quiet moment to acknowledge the moral courage of the board of directors of Holy Family Adoption Services and Bishop Jon Bruno. They are standing up for the infants who need them most. We hope you'll find it in your heart to do the same.

Robert K. Ross, MD
President & CEO, The California Endowment

If you are interested in supporting Holy Family Adoption Services, please contact www.hfs.org or telephone 213 - 202-3900.