Vermont Christian parents say they were punished by foster system over transgender stance

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A Christian couple in Vermont say the state threatened to revoke their foster license over their position on transgender ideology and sex-change treatments for kids in their care.

Melinda Antonucci, 44, and Casey Mathieu, 42, say the state made them take part in an LGBTQ+ training – as part of their license application – which discussed medical procedures for trans kids. 

They secured their license in January and fostered one child on an emergency basis for two weeks in February. Relations with the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) began to strain that month when Antonucci posted to her personal Facebook page a link to a petition advocating for parental rights in the Essex Westford School District.

Antonucci says DCF started questioning the couple’s stance on gender issues a few weeks later and threatened to revoke their license if they wouldn’t affirm gender ideology. The couple have refused to go along with the requests and say that their foster license has been effectively shadow-revoked, since they have not received correspondence about foster placements in weeks.


Now the married couple say they are speaking out against the state’s gender-affirming rules, which they say appear to be required for parents to be assigned foster children.

“There’s probably been a lot of mixed emotions. In some ways we are angry and also very frustrated that we’re trying to do something good, trying to give something back,” Antonucci told Fox News Digital.

“And we’re essentially being told that we’re not fit to do that because of our beliefs, basically DCF’s beliefs on gender ideology. And their beliefs, in my thought process, is not even really based in fact, it’s just their opinion. And because of that, they’re not allowing us to foster children, and there’s a lot of children out there that need a home.”

The couple already have three children – a 19-year-old son, a 16-year-old daughter and a five-year-old son – but are eager to expand their family. Last year, they started the process of obtaining a foster care license.

Melinda Antonucci and Casey Mathieu smiling in a selfie

On the license application, they were asked about their views on trans kids and if they were willing to foster an LGBTQ+ child. They said that they would but were hesitant about facilitating any medical treatment or procedures.

They were also made to take part in a training module, which they said teaches foster parents to affirm a trans child’s gender identity and facilitate a child’s transition should he or she request it. 

“They made us take LGBTQ training, and a lot of their training focused on medical intervention, and one training actually alludes to the fact that sometimes it’s better to intervene medically earlier rather than later,” Antonucci told Fox News Digital. “So, I didn’t want to have a transgender child and have to go along with giving them hormones or anything like that. That was a real point of contention, and that is something that [DCF] feel strongly about.”

Vermont foster care official asks parents to take online training on "caring for LGBTQ children and youth"


Antonucci posted about the parental rights petition in February, which called on the school district to recognize parents’ constitutional right to raise their children and for the district to inform parents should it start helping students transition their gender.

A few weeks later, a DCF worker got in touch with her about her public support for the petition.

According to a letter sent to DCF by the Center for American Liberty, a civil liberties nonprofit group representing the couple, the worker then told Antonucci that her support for the petition was concerning because all foster homes must “affirm” transgender-identifying children.

Antonucci says the worker then “interrogated” her about her beliefs on trans children, asking questions about her willingness to use preferred names and pronouns and whether Antonucci would require her five-year-old son to use a foster child’s preferred name and pronouns should they foster a transgender child, something Antonucci says the couple refused to go along with.

“They asked where the petition originated, did I fully believe in everything that the petition stated, because they had concerns about our family not being affirming to transgender children,” Antonucci told Fox News Digital.

“And based on that phone conversation, the licensor said to me, because these are my beliefs, most likely they will have to pull our license.”

“And so a few days later, the licensor sent me an email saying that she spoke to her supervisor and because I would not foster a transgender child or discuss they/them pronouns with my son, that they were going to have to pull our license.”

Email from Vermont foster care system about license denial


In the email to the couple, DCF states that it does not know how it can move forward with their fostering, “given the inability to predict any foster child’s journey with their own identity.” 

DCF told the couple they could opt to pull the license, or DCF would need to formally deny it. The couple told DCF they were not willing to voluntarily close their license and that if the department wished to revoke it, it needed to provide them with a formal notification.

To date, DCF has not yet told the couple whether it has – or intends to – make good on the worker’s threat to revoke their license, the couple’s lawyers say. They have not received an email about potential foster kids since May 10.

“Thus, it appears the Department has made the decision to exclude Melinda and Casey from being a foster family without formally revoking their license,” the letter reads. 

Fox News Digital reached out to DCF but had not received comment at the time of publication. 

The Center for American Liberty said in its letter that DCF had violated the couple’s First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights.


The group is demanding that DCF cease any plans to revoke the couple’s foster care license based on their views and demands that it stop any discriminatory actions against the couple. The group is also requesting that DCF provide written confirmation that their license will not be revoked due to their protected speech and religious beliefs and that it provide clarification that foster parents are not required to adhere to DCF’s preferred treatment plans for trans kids. 

“It is hard to imagine how the department’s actions have the best interest of children at heart,” said Mark Trammell, the executive director at the Center for American Liberty. “Denying children the opportunity to be placed in a loving home, merely because of a couple’s sincerely held Christian beliefs, is outrageous and illegal.”

Antonucci told Fox Digital that she also had recently run for a position on the school board but lost. She said she isn’t sure whether her run was linked with DCF’s recent actions with regard to their license.

She said she has not typically been an outspoken person on these issues, but her foster license experience has motivated her to be more vocal.

“I’m so concerned about this ideology that’s going on in our state and also our schools,” Antonucci told Fox News Digital. “When my son was two years old in daycare here, they sent home a re-enrollment form and asked me what his preferred pronoun was. So that really kind of woke me up to what’s going on, and since then I’ve been a little bit more engaged and then with this happening.

“I just feel like people need to know what’s going on, because it’s crazy that they’re wanting to do this to kids and pushing it on kids and discriminating against us,” she said. “I think that we’re good people who want to do something good. I just think it’s really gotten out of control.”


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