Year: 2011

State severs foster care ties with Catholic Charities

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.

“That law applies to foster care and adoption services,” each letter stated. “Thus, there is no meeting of the minds as to the (fiscal year 2012) Foster Care and Adoption Contracts.”

The three seeking an injunction on Tuesday — Catholic Charities in the dioceses of Springfield, Peoria and Joliet — sued the Illinois attorney general and DCFS last month for enforcing new policies that accommodate civil unions. In the lawsuit, the agencies sought the court’s permission to preserve their…


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Study: Church giving begins to rebound

Goodbye Recession doldrums. Things may finally be looking up for churches at least, which saw an increase in donations in 2010, according to a new survey.

The “State of the Plate” survey of more than 1,500 congregations showed 43 percent of churches saw giving increase last year, up from 36 percent the previous year.

The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) was a co-sponsor of this year’s research. ECFA recently was asked by Sen. Charles Grassley (D-Iowa), former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, to lead a commission that will look into changes related to regulations governing non-profit charities and churches.

Dan Busby, president of ECFA, says “Sen. Grassley has said in the past that he wants churches to properly self-govern in financial matters. The State of the Plate research shows that a significant number of churches are concerned about financial integrity and accountability—94 percent make their financial statements available to members, 73 percent have a finance committee, 56 percent conduct an internal audit annually, and 36 percent have invested in a CPA audit in the past 3 years. Our research shows many churches are implementing strong financial accountability practices.”

This year’s State of the Plate research also showed that 39 percent of churches saw giving decline this past year. While Pacific Coast states showed the greatest declines in church giving in 2008 and 2009, the Southeast states experienced the heaviest declines in 2010. Smaller churches, those with attendance under 250, saw giving decline more than larger churches.

Whether giving increases or decreases in 2011 will depend on a variety of factors, said Matt Branaugh, director of editorial for Christianity Today International’s church management team, a survey co-sponsor.

“It’s critical for church leaders to nurture relationships with people and show them how their giving…


Mainland, Taiwan reduce import tariffs

The Chinese mainland and Taiwan Saturday moved the first step in furthering their economic ties by implementing the “early harvest program” of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).

Under the program, the Chinese mainland reduces tariffs on 539 Taiwanese goods while Taiwan drops the duties on 267 mainland goods.

The Customs officials inspect Taiwan fruits, the first group of commodities imported from Taiwan under the cross-Strait tariff-reduction trade pact, at Xiamen Customs in Xiamen city, East China’s Fujian province, Jan 1, 2011.

Within two years, the duties on those products will be eventually reduced to zero, a move to put Taiwan in a favorable position when competing with imports from Japan or the Republic of Korea in the mainland market, experts say.

Chinese mainland customs in Xiamen city of eastern Fujian province gave the green light on Saturday to the first group of commodities imported from Taiwan under the cross-Strait tariff-reduction trade pact.

The duty of the merchandise – 4.08 tonnes of Taiwan fruits worth $2,920 with a Certificate of Origin (CO) issued by commerce officials in Taiwan’s Kinmen county – was reduced from 11 or 12 percent to five percent in line with the early harvest program.

Taiwan exported to the mainland fruits worth $9.74 million in the first 11 months of 2010, a 129.5 percent increase year on year, according to Taiwan’s trade association statistics.

Customs in Taiwan’s Kaohsiung…


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