FCAA Policy Statement Regarding HHS Waiver of Federal Funding Rules Prohibiting Discrimination

FCAA Policy Statement Regarding HHS Waiver of Federal Funding Rules Prohibiting Discrimination

FCAA Policy Statement Regarding HHS Waiver of Federal Funding Rules Prohibiting Discrimination

The FCAA National Board of Directors is composed of a diverse group of professionals who have a wide variety of previous exposure to, and life experiences within, the child welfare system, including foster care. Based on our professional and personal experiences, we are in opposition to the Trump Administration allowing federal funding to flow to religious organizations that discriminate on the basis of the organizations’ religious beliefs, and believe that any action that condones discrimination harms children and families.

On January 23, 2019 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) granted special permission to federally-funded child welfare contract agencies in South Carolina to discriminate against prospective foster and adoptive parents based on the agencies’ religious beliefs.

By granting the waiver, the Trump Administration is sanctioning taxpayer-funded discrimination by organizations providing a government service. Current federal policy wisely prohibits agencies that receive federal child welfare funds from discriminating based on several factors, including religion. Discrimination in any form should be condemned as a practice that is at odds with supporting and respecting children and families and accepted child welfare professional standards of care such as those of the Child Welfare League of America. Yet this waiver will be detrimental to efforts to achieve the three main objectives of the child welfare system: safety, permanency, and well-being.

By supporting government funded discrimination, the waiver violates a child’s right and opportunity to achieve permanency by reducing the number of foster and adoptive families who can provide homes and supportive relationships to children in need. Instead of broadening the placement options for children and youth in care, this waiver will reduce the number of placement options available.

By supporting government funded discrimination, the waiver threatens the safety of children by reducing the number of family based settings and making institutional care more likely for youth. Children in care have the constitutional right to freedom from physical and emotional harm. Denying a safe, loving foster or adoptive home to a child may mean placing the child in a residential, detention, or mental health facility that is inappropriate. The federal government, through the Family First Prevention and Services Act, has acknowledged along with widely accepted research that children should not be raised in group and institutional care and are often harmed by these settings.

By sanctioning discrimination, the waiver puts child well-being at risk. For example, a child who identifies as LGBTQ may not get a family based placement because they are rejected by an agency that has religious beliefs that do not accept him or her. Or, that child could be placed in a setting where his or her caregivers reject and stigmatizes that child’s identity based on a religious belief. Either of these results are harmful and damaging to the child.

For all these reasons, FCAA opposes the waiver granted by the Trump Administration to engage in taxpayer-funded discrimination against prospective foster and adoptive parents and children in care.

About Foster Care Alumni of America: Founded in 2004 and led by alumni of care, FCAA empowers former foster youth of all ages to build a supportive community and use our collective voice for change. Our mission is to connect alumni to transform policy and practice, ensuring opportunity for people in and from foster care.

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