The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) submitted a proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review on Oct. 4, 2019. The rule is titled “Ensuring Equal Treatment for Faith-Based Organizations.” The rule submitted by HHS on October 4 was submitted alongside similar rules from EIGHT other federal agencies. This represents a sweeping attack by Trump Administration federal agencies that would deny vulnerable families and children critically-important taxpayer-funded services in a BROAD array of areas – housing, employment, nutrition, etc. – simply because of who they are, what they believe, and whom they love. This proposed rule would harm youth in foster care waiting for foster and adoptive families.
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. Over 123,000 children and youth in foster care are waiting to be adopted, and fewer than half of these will find their forever home within a year. Youth in foster care 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. Over 1 in 5 youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ. The Trump Administration’s approach prioritizes the religious beliefs of taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies over the needs of children and youth in foster care. The cardinal rule of child welfare is that foster care decisions must always be made in the best interests of the child. Freedom of religion is important; that’s why it’s protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. But freedom of religion does not give taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies the right to impose their beliefs on others or to deny homes to children in foster care.