South Carolina’s Waiver to Discriminate

The Trump administration has just given the state of South Carolina a license to discriminate.

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families announced its decision to grant a waiver to allow South Carolina foster care providers to discriminate against prospective foster and adoptive parents while maintaining their licenses and continuing to receive federal funds.

Faith-based foster care agencies do important work to give children loving families – and receive millions in federal funding for their services. But no agency has the moral or the legal right to decide who is a suitable foster care parent based on things unrelated to their ability to care for a child.  

Christina Wilson Remlin, lead counsel for Children’s Rights, issued the following statement:

“Let’s call this decision what it is: state-sanctioned and government-funded discrimination. By granting a waiver that allows agencies to accept federal and state dollars while turning away otherwise qualified families and individuals solely on the basis of religious belief, the Trump administration is sending the message that Jewish, LGBTQ, Muslim, and other non-Christian individuals are less deserving of equal protection under the law. We disagree.

“Moreover, South Carolina is already facing a severe shortage of foster homes and inappropriately overuses group homes. Limiting the pool of prospective foster and adoptive parents based on their failure to pass a religious litmus test will deprive children of suitable, loving and stable homes.”

Earlier this year Children’s Rights joined 20 leading organizations in a letter calling on HHS to reject South Carolina’s waiver application, warning that the waiver would violate the Constitution and other federal statutes and potentially threaten the safety of South Carolina foster children.

Children’s Rights is counsel for South Carolina’s foster children under the Michelle H. v. McMaster lawsuit, which seeks system-wide improvements on behalf of all the approximately 4,000 children in foster care statewide.