The state has declined to renew its foster care and adoption contracts with Catholic Charities across Illinois, possibly ending a historic partnership initiated by the Roman Catholic Church a half-century ago and potentially severing the relationship between nearly 2,000 foster children and their caseworkers.

Though four Catholic Charities agencies had already stopped licensing new foster parents, three of them will seek an injunction from a Sangamon County judge on Tuesday to continue serving families and abiding by Catholic principles that prohibit placing children with unmarried cohabiting couples.

“We’re not sure what the state is intending to do or how it’s intending to do it,” said Peter Breen, an attorney with the Thomas More Society representing Catholic Charities. “It’s a surprise. But it’s also very disturbing. The impact on the [nearly 2,000] children in Catholic Charities care will be catastrophic.”

In letters sent last week to Catholic Charities in the dioceses of Peoria, Joliet and Springfield and Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said the state could not accept their signed contracts for the 2012 fiscal year. Each letter said funding was declined because “your agency has made it clear that it does not intend to comply with the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act,” which the state says requires prospective parents in civil unions to be treated the same as married couples.

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