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Explainer: HHS targets faith-based providers in LGBTQ foster care rule

HHS targets faith-based providers

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has submitted comments regarding our concerns with the proposed rule change by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) titled “Safe and Appropriate Foster Care Placement Requirements for Titles IV-E and IV-B.” The rule concerns foster care placement of children who identify as LGBTQ. Here is what you should know about the regulatory proposal. 

What is the proposed HHS rule regarding foster care placement of LGBTQ children?

The proposed rule would require states to develop policies ensuring that LGBTQ foster children are placed in environments “free from hostility or discrimination” based on their LGBTQ status. It would also require states to ensure foster parents have the knowledge and skills to support the needs of LGBTQ children.

HHS bases it on language requiring “safe and proper care” for foster children, arguing that means care free from hostility or discrimination against LGBTQ status and ensuring foster parents can support LGBTQ children’s needs.

How does the proposed rule affect faith-based foster care providers?

The rule suggests restricting LGBTQ-identifying children’s placement to non-religious foster care organizations. This discriminates against religious providers and limits foster care options, harming children in need. As we argued in our comments, “this proposed rulemaking discriminates against religious and faith-based foster care providers by forcing such organizations to choose between their deeply held convictions and their desire to live out their faith by caring for some of the most vulnerable children in our society.”

What are the main concerns with the proposed rule as it affects children?

The proposed rule will cause undue harm to foster children, particularly those who identify as LGBTQ, by limiting the pool of eligible foster care providers. Affirming a child’s LGBTQ identity should not be a prerequisite for providing a safe, nurturing environment. Foster care placement should emphasize the importance of a child’s overall peer relationships and environment over specific gender identity affirmations. 

Over 30% of children in the foster care system identify as LGBTQ. By taking away a huge swath of parents who are ready and able to provide loving homes and quality care, these children will both be forced to wait longer for permanent placement and will be placed in homes that may push them toward dangerous gender transition services and procedures at time that these children are particularly vulnerable.

What are the concerns regarding parents’ rights in foster care?

The ERLC is concerned about the potential infringement on biological parents’ rights, particularly regarding decisions about gender transitioning during foster care placements. A primary goal of foster care is to facilitate a child’s return home, so allowing gender transitions against parents’ wishes is a clear violation of the rights of parents.

Additionally, this regulation sets dangerous precedent that refusing to “affirm” the gender identity of a foster child means that a parent is unable to provide safe and proper care. This argument could eventually be applied to biological parents who do not “affirm” the gender identity of their child.

What are the religious liberty concerns for foster care providers?

The proposed rule discriminates against religious and faith-based foster care providers by forcing them to choose between their deeply held convictions and their desire to care for vulnerable children.

The rule also implies that faith-based organizations’ belief in a biblical sexual ethic prevents them from being able to provide “safe and proper care” to foster children from any background. This is not only untrue but also prejudicial against faith-based foster care. Biblical beliefs on sexuality do not conflict with providing safe care, nor do they impede the ability of foster families to provide “safe and proper care” to any child, regardless of their background or beliefs.

What is the ERLC’s recommendation to HHS regarding the proposed rule?

Southern Baptists strongly support foster care, with many members establishing foster care organizations and ministries. This rule distorts the term “safe and proper” foster care in a way that enforces discrimination against such faith-based providers.

The ERLC strongly believes that HHS should rescind its proposed rule entirely because it will lead to religious discrimination against qualified foster families and result in a lack of foster care placements for vulnerable children.

HHS targets faith-based providers

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