On February 9, the head of New York City’s JJCA child welfare agency, penned an opinion piece in the Capitol Hill publication, The Hill, calling out an HHS decision to waive anti-discrimination regulations in child welfare placements. CEO Ronald E Richter denounced the recent decision by the Administration to issue the waiver arguing that there is no evidence of a service gap in states where faith-based agencies have closed rather than comply with anti-discrimination practices.
Reacting to the HHS decision, Judge Richter said,
“As an adoptive father, I know how many families are eager to share their love and homes with children who need them. As a former family court judge and children’s lawyer, I know how desperately children want to find a sanctuary—with caregivers who, whether biological or not, love and support them unconditionally. The recent exemption given to South Carolina foster care providers allowing faith-based agencies to refuse to license potential foster parents based on their religion, sexual-orientation, or identity not only violates federal law but sets a dangerous precedent, promoting an equally dangerous lesson.”
The issue of the HHS decision to allow a South Carolina child welfare agency to bypass the anti-discrimination regulations under Title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance by restricting their placement practices based on the religion of the potential parent(s) continues to generate debate and concern both within and outside the child welfare community.
The week before, Senator Mike Enzi re-introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (S.274), which would prohibit states from enforcing anti-discrimination practices in recruiting foster and adoptive parents and in placement decisions for children and youth. The legislation heavily elevates the rights of private agencies throughout the bill but never refences or protects “the best interests of the child” which is a requirement for state child welfare agencies and is referenced at least 16 times under Title IV-B and Title IV-E federal law.
Judge Richter highlighted another crucial issue in the debate: “there are approximately 2 million LGBTQ potential foster parents in the United States, fewer than 20 percent of adoption agencies are actively recruiting them, and 60 percent report never having placed a child with an LGBTQ couple. A staggering 40 percent of agencies noted they wouldn’t even accept applications from LGBTQ couples.”
The waiver for the Miracle Hill Ministries revolved around their rejecting a couple because they were not Christian but Jewish.