When talking about the Trump Administration’s recent efforts to allow discrimination in foster care and adoption, we suggest you stick to these key points:
Turning away qualified foster families greatly harms the nearly 443,000 children in foster care, nearly 20,000 of whom age out of care each year without finding forever families.
HHS’ Discriminatory Waiver allows Miracle Hill Ministries – as well as other South Carolina faith-based foster care agencies - to turn away qualified prospective foster parents who do not pass their religious litmus test.
This harms foster youth waiting for foster and adoptive families.
Foster youth these agencies serve who identify as LGBTQ, or are of a different faith or have no religious beliefs could also be harmed by not finding accepting, affirming families who will love them for who they are and respect their identities. HHS-funded research shows that nearly 1 in 5 foster youth identify as LGBTQ.
The decision does not focus on children and youth in foster care but rather the needs of agencies that serve them. The cardinal rule of child welfare is that foster care decisions must always be made in the best interests of the child.
Our constitution enshrines religious freedom as a fundamental American right, to act as a shield and protect religious freedom for all, not to be used as a sword to harm others. Religious freedom should never be used to justify discrimination.
Discrimination has absolutely no place in our child welfare services, whether it is anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
The waiver reflects a broader, dangerous trend of states allowing agencies to turn away a broad array of qualified prospective families based on religious criteria.
Congress has mandated through the Family First Prevention Services Act, passed into law in February 2018, that states encourage placement in a family-like home and reduce inappropriate group homes/facility placements by providing support to families of origin or placing foster youth with foster and/or adoptive families. This waiver makes these critical statutory goals more difficult to achieve by allowing South Carolina agencies to turn away qualified families.
HHS uses the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as justification for its waiver. However, the policy violates the Congressional intent of RFRA and is a drastic departure from long-standing federal protections that have applied to partnerships between the government and faith-based providers for decades.
From Miracle Hill Foster Home requirements: A foster parent for Miracle Hill must: 1) be a born-again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ as expressed by a personal testimony and Christian conduct; 2) be in agreement without reservation with the doctrinal statement of Miracle Hill Ministries; 3) be an active participant in, and in good standing with, a Protestant church.