Last week, in one of its final actions, the Trump Administration finalized a rule that would allow taxpayer-funded discrimination in the child welfare system. The rule reverses Obama-era regulations that provided blanket protections on the basis of sex, religion, gender identity, and sexual orientation from programs receiving federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
While most other HHS funded programs have explicit protections written into their statute, there are no protections in child welfare law for foster youth against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or for foster and adoptive parents on the basis of sex, religion, gender identity, and sexual orientation. As a result, this final rule means that agencies that contract with the child welfare system to recruit, license, and support foster parents can deny otherwise eligible adults the right to foster or adopt children solely because they are Catholic, gay, or Jewish. It means that agencies can discriminate against LGBTQ+ youth in foster care, who already see significantly worse outcomes in child welfare than their non-LGBTQ+ peers. While the Administration claims the purpose of the rule is regulatory efficiency, it follows in a pattern of attacks on LGBTQ+ people and religious minorities, including providing South Carolina a waiverof these same protections so Miracle Hill Ministries could deny parents because they were Jewishor Catholic.
The Children’s Defense Fund vehemently opposedthis callous rule when it was proposed in November of 2019 and we continue to vehemently oppose it now. At a time when children across the country are sleeping in motels and CPS officesor being held in congregate care facilities that cannot keep them safe from the pandemic because there aren’t enough foster homes for them, this rule will reduce the number of foster homes available. It will mean there are fewer permanent loving families for the 122,000 children who are currently waiting to be adopted. It will mean that LGBTQ+ youth, already dramatically over-represented in foster care, will receive worse care. Further, it sends the signal to LGBTQ+ youth and youth of minority faiths that their lives are worth less because of who they are, who they love, or what they believe.
This rule is a license to discriminate and is in direct opposition to the cardinal rule of child welfare, that the best interest of the child is paramount. Allowing discrimination in child welfare harms the safety and well-being of children. The Children’s Defense Fund calls on the Biden Administration to swiftly overturn this rule.