Evident Change and New Administration in Sync on Equity Priorities
January 21, 2021 | Debra Illingworth Greene
Even as the events of early January grabbed our collective attention, the Trump administration managed to finalize a Health and Human Services (HHS) rule that would allow child welfare agencies to discriminate against people who are LGBTQ.
The HHS Services Grants Regulation permits tax-funded social services agencies to refuse people who are LGBTQ from serving as foster parents or adopting children. The new rule, published January 12 and scheduled to go into effect February 12, also allows those same agencies to discriminate on the basis of religious affiliation (or lack thereof). This rule was justified in part by the notion that nondiscrimination provisions could violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation, religion, and a host of other identities is both morally wrong and can have devastating effects on children in need of homes. With more than 400,000 children in foster care and 100,000 waiting to be adopted, excluding qualified adults from the pool of prospective parents is antithetical to the child welfare goal of permanency for children. A Human Rights Campaign report notes that an estimated two million LGBTQ adults in the United States are interested in adoption.
Additionally, LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system. Many of these youth land in the system after being rejected by their families due to their sexual orientation. A child welfare system that allows for discrimination against LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents risks encouraging hostility toward LGBTQ youth who already face a laundry list of challenges.
These discriminatory rules are likely to be reversed by the new administration, which has already taken a strong stand on issues of equity. However, divisive ideology will not fade away on its own. As President Biden and Vice President Harris work with the House and Senate on the many challenges facing the nation, all of us—regardless of political affiliation—need to do our part to help people achieve their greatest potential, not create barriers to their success.
At Evident Change, that means we must commit to listening to those with lived experience in the social systems we seek to improve and sharing power with people who are most affected by these systems. We also must stay strong in our commitment to research- and evidence-informed decision making to fight disinformation and discrimination in the social systems in which we work.
In the realm of child welfare, this means helping systems improve the health, safety, and well-being of children and families through equitable decision making. The important decisions made regarding children and families in the child welfare system should not be based on skin color, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. We look forward to continuing this work toward more equitable systems with our child welfare partners—and in sync with the priorities of the Biden administration.
Debra Illingworth Greene is the communications manager for Evident Change.