The Trump administration on Wednesday (23 January) granted a waiver to a foster care agency in South Carolina, allowing them to discriminate against potential parents.
The Administration for Children and Families, a branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) granted the waivier. It allows Miracle Hill Ministries to keep receiving federal funds and acting as a state-sponsored foster care agency.
With the exemption the waiver grants, Miracle Hill can now continue its operation working only with Christian couples and parents.
Though it had been operation for decades with this stipulation, an Obama-era policy jeopardized the organization. The policy in question prohibited federally funded organization from discrimination on the basis of religion.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster requested the exemption in March 2018.
Miracle Hill routinely turned away same-sex and non-Christian couples. Per the waiver, however, they must continue to refer these individuals to other adoption agencies.
Miracle Hill President and CEO Reid Lehman commended the decision.
‘It was the right decision to honor the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act,’ he said. ‘It was the right decision to keep the pool of providers for foster care as big as possible, and the right decision to make sure the needs of South Carolina children are met.’
His argument is that closing down Miracle Hill, regardless of discriminatory policies, would have meant one less adoption agency in the state.
Children ‘deserve better’
LGBTI and civil rights organizations across the nation disagree with the waiver.
The ACLU tweeted that children ‘waiting for loving and supportive homes deserve better than this’.
BREAKING: The Governor of South Carolina asked @HHSGov for permission to discriminate against prospective adoptive and foster families based on their religious beliefs — and HHS just granted it.
Children who are waiting for loving and supportive homes deserve better than this.
— ACLU (@ACLU) January 23, 2019
‘There are more than 400,000 children in foster care around the country, and today the Trump administration has turned its back on each of them,’ continued Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project.
‘Prospective foster and adoptive parents should be judged only on their capacity to provide love and support to a child — not their faith.’
HRC also disagreed with HHS’ decision to grant the waiver.
‘Every decision that is made by a provider of child welfare services must be grounded in doing what is the best interest of the child, period,’ said Cathryn Oakley, HRC State Legislative Director & Senior Counsel.
‘Providing care for these kids is critically important, and too many kids languish in the foster care system because there aren’t enough foster and adoptive parents for each child. Allowing a federal contractor the ability to refuse to work with qualified prospective parents – limiting the pool of prospective parents even further – is directly counter to the best interests of the children waiting for families.’