Canadian foster parents Derek and Frances Baars say they lost two children in their care because they refused to confirm the existence of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
"We were committed to not lying to children," Derek told the Toronto Sun. "They could expect the truth from us and we expected the truth from them."
The Baars, who self-identify as Christians, have filed a lawsuit against the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society. The suit alleges the social services agency violated their freedom of conscience and religion rights by forcing them to tell the foster kids that the Easter Bunny is a "real entity."
The couple is unable to have their own kids, so they decided to be foster parents in Hamilton, Ontario. They went through training and screening steps, and were approved in December 2015. They took in two sisters, ages 4 and 3.
The girls were supposed to stay with the Baars temporarily, but things started going rocky around Christmas time 2015.
"We neither confirmed or denied the existence of Santa Claus," Derek said. "We gave them gifts for Christmas and they were part of our extended family celebration. They had a good day."
The Baars say the girls' biological parents were upset that their offspring did not have pictures taken with Santa Claus. A social worker was upset with the foster couple in 2016 because they would not promote the Easter Bunny, according to the Baars.
The Baars' lawsuit says they were told "part of their duty as foster parents to teach the girls about the Easter Bunny because it is ostensibly part of Canadian culture."
The Baars insist in their lawsuit that the biological parents never told the couple "that they required or desired that [we] tell their girls that the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus was real."
The Baars said they told the social worker that they would purchase new clothes for the girls, and do a chocolate egg hunt, or have the girls spend Easter weekend with another foster family.
According to their lawsuit, the Baars say they were told: "Tell the foster girls that the Easter Bunny was real or their foster home would be closed."
The Hamilton CAS shut down the Baars' foster home on March 4, 2016, refusing even to place infants with the couple.
The Baars are worried that this action will harm their chances someday if they attempt to adopt children.
"We’re not looking for money," Derek stated. "I’m not entirely sure what the court can even do. We just don’t want them to do to others what they did to us."
Derek and Frances have moved to Calgary, Alberta, where he is working to become an ordained minister. Frances, who has an Early Childhood Education degree, is working as a nanny.
Dominic Verticchio, executive director of the Hamilton CAS, told the National Post that the agency did not disrespect the couple's beliefs, and added: "There are two sides to every story."
Verticchio said the agency wants the customary practices of children to keep going while the kids are in foster care.
"At the end of the day, we couldn’t reach an agreement," Verticchio stated.
Verticchio was asked if the Easter Bunny is real, and replied: "It depends who you ask."
"When you have children placed outside their homes … I think there should be a balance between being respectful of the foster parent's beliefs, but also the kids," Verticchio told CBC News. "You've got to find a middle ground."