ICOY Statement: Discrimination based on religion of potential foster parents must not stand

Publisher: ICOY Staff

Illinois state capitol building

The Trump administration on Wednesday granted a Christian ministry in South Carolina permission to participate in the federally funded foster-care program, even though the group will work only with Christian families. The long-standing policy of Miracle Hill Ministries of Greenville violates a regulation, put into place in the closing days of the Obama administration, that bars discrimination on the basis of religion by groups receiving money from the Department of Health and Human Services.

ICOY stands with the Child Welfare League of America, which issued a statement yesterday saying in part, “The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) is greatly disappointed in the January 23, 2019 decision by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to allow a waiver of current federal prohibitions against discrimination in the recruitment of foster and adoptive parents and the placement of children and youth. We recognize and support the critical and important role that religious-affiliated agencies have played and continue to play in our nation’s human services programs. The decision by HHS, however, would offer broad authority to potentially violate the central principle of the nation’s child welfare system by not placing the best interest of children and youth first.”

Last July, ICOY issued a statement in opposition to the Aderholt Amendment, that would have required states to allow taxpayer-funded foster care and adoption agencies to turn away qualified parents based on religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or family structure, and called on the Illinois Congressional Delegation to reject the amendment. By September the appropriations bill the Aderholt Amendment was attached to had passed without the language of the amendment included. We are extremely disheartened to learn that this effort to openly discriminate against qualified foster parents was been revived by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

We reiterate, discrimination is wrong and it hurts children, youth, and families. No qualified family who wishes to welcome a foster youth into their home should be turned away based on their religion. We join CWLA in asking HHS to revise its decision and instead work with agencies and organizations across the country in a way that is respectful of cultural differences based on tribal heritage, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. We must commit ourselves as a nation to serving the best interests of each child, young person, and family served by these agencies.

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