On Thursday, November 18, 2021, HHS announced it was rolling back a controversial Trump Administration waiver that allowed some child welfare agencies to discriminate in their placement decisions. The Biden action quickly gained the praise of key House Democrats who are backing the anti-discrimination-in-placement-decisions legislation.
Early in the Trump Administration, HHS had issued a waiver to the state of South Carolina to let its agencies discriminate in placement decisions. The original case involved Miracle Hill Ministries, South Carolina’s largest state-contracted, federally funded foster care agency. Miracle Hill, in a well-publicized case, denied a placement to a couple on the basis of their religion. The agency also held to beliefs that did not recognize gay marriages. The South Carolina department originally tried to stop the discrimination but was overruled by the governor. The Trump Administration waiver reinforced that gubernatorial decision.
Ways and Means Committee members Congressman Richard E. Neal (D-MA), Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL), and Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), issued a joint statement that in praise of the waiver repeal saying in part,
“Thanks to the Biden Administration, more qualified, compassionate families will be able to serve as foster parents, and more foster children will find placement in safe, affirming, and loving homes. It is essential we shield young people in the foster care system from the kind of discrimination and harm the Trump Administration’s waiver permitted. Today’s welcome news shows that HHS is recommitting to protecting the wellbeing of children in its charge.
“Our late colleague John Lewis helped lead the Committee’s work on this issue, and we think of him today as justice is delivered for particularly vulnerable foster kids and families.”
Neal is Chair of the Committee and Davis and Pascrell chair key subcommittees.
The Trump Administration said the waiver was a way to protect religious liberty. They had issued the waivers from nondiscrimination protections to South Carolina, Texas, and Michigan. They argued they were enforcing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).