Foster family placement company submits corrective action plan

Contemporary Family Services says it didn't discriminate against Muslim woman who doesn't allow pork in her home

May 03, 2010|By Brent Jones, The Baltimore Sun

A company that denied a Baltimore woman the chance to become a foster mother after discovering she doesn't allow pork in her home defended its decision in a state-ordered corrective action plan, saying the woman lacks the flexibility needed to work with children.

Hyattsville-based Contemporary Family Services, which is authorized by the state to place foster children with families, said Tashima Crudup — a practicing Muslim — was unyielding in her stance, which in turn, could make her intractable in other issues involving children. Crudup initially had cleared a screening process and completed hours of training before her application was denied after a home visit from a CFS worker in August 2009.

Crudup took her case to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a complaint on her behalf with the Baltimore City Community Relations Commission, claiming religious discrimination. The commission is investigating the case and will set a hearing date.

Maryland's Office of Licensing and Monitoring, meanwhile, sent a letter to CFS outlining state discrimination laws and ordering the company to comply. The department also asked CFS to file a corrective action plan within 10 days.

CFS said in its response that it did not discriminate against Crudup. The company said it will now provide documentation of its nondiscriminatory policy to all parents and prospective parents.

Corey Pierce, chief operating officer for CFS, said his agency has never discriminated against potential foster parents and has clients of all religions and races.

"Why would we discriminate against her? Our issues with her are legitimate. It's not about religion, and really, it's not about pork," Pierce said.

The written corrective action plan sent to the state last week said that highlighting Crudup's prohibition of pork in her rejection letter was "a nice way of saying that the views of Ms. Crudup lacked the level of flexibility necessary to work with … children in the care of CFS."

CFS also said in its plan that at the time of any rejection for a prospective parent, it will provide a letter to the aggrieved party explaining that they can make an appeal for an administrative hearing, something Crudup was not told at the time.

The company also said that in certain cases, statutes allow discrimination to protect the rights of the child that would be placed in the home, although the company did not cite the law.

ACLU lawyer Ajmel Quereshi said the corrective action plan was undermined by that assertion.

"Regardless of whatever nondiscrimination policy CFS may enact, as long as they interpret that policy to allow clearly discriminatory decisions — as they currently do — maintaining such a policy is virtually meaningless," Quereshi said.

Crudup has said she didn't realize her dietary habits were a concern for the placement company. The food she serves her children was among dozens of topics that came up during a daylong interview.

Even though she doesn't allow pork in her house, Crudup claims she told the caseworker she would have no problem with children in her care eating it at school outings or in restaurants.

Pierce said Crudup never relayed that to him during a conversation they had after she was rejected. Pierce said the agency has screened Muslims, Seventh-Day Adventists and members of other religions with dietary restrictions.

"Their level of flexibility [in other cases] was different," Pierce said.

Crudup said she grew up in foster care after she was removed from her grandmother's home as an 8-year-old.

Now a stay-at-home mother whose five children range in age from 3 to 10, Crudup lives in a five-bedroom, four- bathroom home with Andre Moore, a 38-year-old truck driver. Although they are not legally married, Crudup said they are wed in the eyes of their religion.

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