Congressman Danny K. Davis Condemns Trump Administration's Discrimination against Foster Youth and Foster Parents


August 19, 2020



Today, Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Worker and Family Support with jurisdiction over federal child welfare policy, issued the following statement regarding the release of the Ways and Means Committee Democratic staff report finding that the Trump Administration’s waiver of foster care nondiscrimination protections was improper, contrary to the best interest of foster children, and harmful to LGBTQ individuals:


“I condemn in the strongest possible terms, in blatant violation of the first amendment and the most fundamental underpinnings of our Democracy, the decision by the Trump Administration to use federal dollars to promote discrimination against foster youth and parents.


Following the Administration’s waiver of foster care nondiscrimination protections, I worked with my colleague, the late John Lewis (D-GA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight, to investigate whether the waiver complied with federal law and was in the best interest of children.  Today’s report Children at Risk: The Trump Administration’s Waiver of Foster Care Nondiscrimination Requirements”— makes clear that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) failed its mandate to act in the best interest of abused and neglected children, prioritizing the religious preferences of an organization over its statutory obligation to protect vulnerable youth. 


After extensive review of documents and input from policy experts, the report found that the waiver was improper, contrary to the best interest of foster children, and harmful to LGBTQ individuals. Egregiously, agency documents reveal that HHS failed even to consider how the waiver would affect foster youth.  One document specifically admits:  ‘ACF [Administration on Children and Families] has not conducted an independent analysis to determine the impact of the proposed exception on access to foster care settings in South Carolina.’


The Trump Administration waiver permits the use federal funds to reject Jews, Catholics, persons of other faiths, non-religious persons, and LGBTQ individuals from serving as safe and affirming caretakers or mentors to foster youth. The waiver further forces foster youth who are Jews, Catholics, persons of other faiths, non-religious, and LGBTQ either to live with adults who oppose their identity or to remain in foster care.   The Administration justifies the discrimination as acceptable if another organization serves these foster youth and parents.  I grew up in the segregated south.  Separate is not equal. Not in education. Not in child welfare.


There is a shortage of loving, qualified foster parents, and the Trump Administration waiver prioritizes prejudice at the expense of vulnerable foster youth, denying them the stability they deserve and exacerbating the shortage of qualified foster parents.  The federal government should never sanction discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation or any other protected class.”


“The Trump Administration has repeatedly sought to limit the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ Americans, and with today’s report, Chairmen Davis and Lewis have exposed that the waiver HHS granted to South Carolina is part of that pattern of discrimination,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA). “While Chairman Lewis is sadly not with us to see the final outcome of his investigation, the revelations he and Chairman Davis uncovered are the direct result of these leaders’ fierce commitment to protecting young people from harm. I applaud the Oversight and Worker and Family Support Subcommittees’ relentless fight on behalf of the most vulnerable children in our foster care system, and I hope that the findings and recommendations in this new report will lead to the withdrawal of the South Carolina waiver and ensure that in the future, federal foster care funds are used in the best interest of young people, not to enable discrimination.”