Last month, on Wednesday, August 19, 2020, the House Ways and Means Committee Democrats released a report led by Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Chairman Danny K. Davis (D-IL) and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight, the late John Lewis (D-GA) on the issue of discrimination in placement decisions for foster care and adoption. The report had been under development for several months before Congressman Lewis passed away in July.

The report, Children at Risk: The Trump Administration’s Waiver of Foster Care Nondiscrimination Requirements” focuses on discrimination in foster care and adoption recruitment and placements. The issue received increased attention in January 2019, when the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) granted a waiver to the state of South Carolina to allow discrimination in their placement and recruitment policies regarding foster and adoption placements. Earlier, that state’s department overseeing child welfare policy had informed a provider they were in violation of federal anti-discrimination provisions because they had turned down an applicant based on their religion. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster asked for a waiver that allowed the private agency (Miracle Hill) to continue the restrictions.

The House Majority staff indicated that the waiver permitted discrimination within the child welfare system based on religion and sexual orientation, resulting in harm to LGBTQ children and families, and is not in the best interest of children. The report further concluded that HHS documents show that the waiver was driven by Trump Administration appointees who excluded policy experts from the decision-making process. Key points in the report:

  • HHS Granted a Waiver to South Carolina that Was Improper and Unprecedented.
  • The Waiver Violates the Statutory Mandate to Act in the Best Interests of the Child.
  • Miracle Hill’s Discrimination Threatens to Exacerbate the Foster Parent Shortage.
  • Research Shows the Waiver Disproportionately Harms LGBTQ Foster Youth.
  • Experts Agree that Protections Against Discrimination Are in the Best Interest of Foster Children.
  • HHS Failed to Consider How the Waiver Would Impact Vulnerable Children in Foster Care.
  • HHS Recognized the Negative Consequences of South Carolina’s Waiver for LGBTQ Americans.
  • HHS Prevented the Committee from Fulfilling its Constitutional Responsibility by Refusing to Disclose Complete Information about the South Carolina Waiver.
  • The Waiver Set a Precedent for Discrimination of and Harm to Individuals Outside South Carolina.

The report: Children at Risk: The Trump Administration’s Waiver of Foster Care Nondiscrimination Requirements is HERE.

 The report’s appendices can be viewed using the links: 

Appendix A (HHS documents)

Appendix B (GAO Analysis)

Appendix C (Letters From Child Welfare/ Nondiscrimination Experts)

CWLA’s comments can be found on page 62 of Appendix C. In our closing, we said:

Faith-based providers have a long and important history of providing essential services in foster

care and the larger child welfare system. At times throughout our history, they provided services

when federal, state, and local services were lacking. However, best practice demands that we

remember the child and family are our clients—thus, their needs are paramount.

The CWLA National Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare serves as the foundation and

framework for achieving the vision that all children will grow up safely, in loving families and

supportive communities. They must have the resources needed to flourish, including connections

to their culture, ethnicity, race, and language, and support for their sexual orientation and gender identity. This vision requires that all children, whether or not they receive child welfare services or are at risk for child abuse or neglect, will grow up with safety, well-being, and permanence.

Families, individuals, communities, providers, and other organizations can create the greatest

opportunities for all children and youth to succeed and flourish. It is only by achieving a vision

for all children and youth those who are most vulnerable can flourish. This means working

together to better serve and protect children and support their families and permanence. This

requires collaboration between families, individuals, communities, service providers, and

policymakers to ensure the best possible opportunities for all children and youth.