The Trump Administration may be getting ready to issue an executive order that will “respect religious freedom” and could be so broad that it will allow the discrimination in the placement of children in adoptive, foster and kinship placements. It would extend these provisions beyond religious or faith based agencies to “any organization” including for-profit corporations.

The draft executive order has been widely circulating in the media and across Washington DC.  In regard to child welfare, the language that has been circulating states:

“[HHS] shall take all appropriate action to ensure that the Federal Government shall not discriminate or take any adverse action against a religious organization that provides federally-funded child-welfare services, including promoting or providing adoption, foster, or family support services for children, or similar services, on the basis that the organization declines to provide, facilitate, or refer such services due to a conflict with the organization’s religious beliefs. The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall, where authorized by law, promptly propose for notice and comment new regulations consistent with this policy. “

CWLA has long opposed such discriminatory practices in the placement of children. Discriminatory practices which would appear to target the placement of children regarding LGBTQ related circumstances and which could extend discrimination to other placement decisions including faith-related and ethnic conditions if an agency claimed religious basis for the placement decisions.  CWLA policy on discriminatory practices:

Section 3.18 of CWLA’s Standards of Excellence for Family Foster Care Services establishes a policy of nondiscrimination in the selection of foster parents, stating, “The family foster care agency should not reject foster parent applicants solely due to their age, income, marital status, race, religious preference, sexual orientation, physical or disabling condition, or location of the foster home” (CWLA, 1995).

Regarding adoptions, CWLA states, “All applicants should be assessed on the basis of their abilities to successfully parent a child needing family membership and not on their race, ethnicity or culture, income, age, marital status, religion, appearance, differing lifestyle, or sexual orientation. Applicants should be accepted on the basis of an individual assessment of their capacity to understand and meet the needs of a particular available child at the point of the adoption and in the future” (CWLA, 2000).

In regard to youth, CWLA states, Youth who are LGBTQ and have been rejected, abused or neglected by their family because of their identities are at serious risk for health problems in adulthood. All youth should be afforded the same treatment and respect regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The child welfare system must ensure youth in care who are LGBTQ receive support, acceptance and access to coping strategies to help them successfully transition to adulthood.”

 In April 2015, CWLA joined with Voice for Adoption (VFA), the Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI), and the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) in issuing a joint statement on adoptions:

“…children deserve every opportunity to have a permanent, loving family, and that ruling out qualified prospective parents through discrimination limits options for permanency and stability for children waiting in temporary arrangements. We oppose policies and practices that categorically discriminate against prospective parents, including but not limited to discrimination based on age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, marital, status, family size, disability, medical condition, geographic location, employment status, occupation (including employment in the child welfare system), and educational attainment.” 

All of these statements on non-discrimination are reinforced by our National Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare. 

It is unclear when or if the order will be signed by the President.  President Trump has, at least in dealing with job discrimination, rejected repeal of some Obama Administration initiatives that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. A report in the Washington DC-based publication Politico, late Friday indicated that the President’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner persuaded the President to not repeal the Obama ban on job discrimination.  The article however indicated that the Administration was still working with groups like the Family Research Council to address their issues.  Tony Perkins, CEO of that organization is quoted as saying, “I think they are going to address the conflicts that exists currently, which would preclude religious organizations from contracting with the federal government.

The order could have been timed for release during the National Prayer Breakfast event last Thursday but was not.  Its wide circulation within Washington publications and at least one national broadcast network suggests a continued leaking of information from the Trump Administration during the early operations of the new Administration.