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Advocates Urge Department of Health and Human Services to Reject Waiver That Would Permit Discrimination by South Carolina Foster Care Providers

Contact: Daniel Kessel, 646-216-3333, dkessel@childrensrights.org

New York, NY – Today Children’s Rights and a coalition of 20 leading nonprofit children’s organizations and advocates urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reject a waiver requested by the State of South Carolina that would allow federally-funded foster care providers to deny applications of prospective Jewish and other foster and adoptive parents on the basis of religious belief.

If granted, this waiver would allow foster care agencies—such as Miracle Hill Ministries, which prohibits placement with non-Christian families—to continue receiving federal funding despite discriminatory practices. Miracle Hill reportedly turned away a Jewish applicant on the basis of religious belief. The requested waiver would expressly allow such discrimination against foster or adoptive parents and foster children in violation of the First Amendment. The waiver would apply not only to prospective Jewish parents, but also to LGBTQ, Muslim, atheist, or any non-Christian individuals.

“Beyond the immorality of this flagrant attempt to sanction discrimination, children would suffer the most,” said Christina Wilson Remlin, lead counsel at Children’s Rights. “South Carolina is already facing a severe shortage of foster homes. No child should be denied a safe and loving environment simply because a prospective parent does not pass a moral or religious litmus test.”

In the letter to Roger Severino, Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Rights and signatories warned that the waiver would violate the Constitution and other federal statutes, and that children’s safety and well-being hang in the balance. By asking the federal government for a waiver that would permit it to discriminate, South Carolina would prevent otherwise qualified, caring individuals and families from becoming foster and adoptive parents.

Signatories to the letter include a coalition of respected nonprofit children’s organizations and advocates: Children’s Rights; Center for Children & Youth Justice; Children & Youth Law Clinic, University of Miami School of Law; Children’s Defense Fund-New York; Children’s Law Center, Inc.; Children’s Law Center of California; Children’s Law Center of Minnesota; Civitas ChildLaw Center; Crisanne Hazen, Assistant Director, Child Advocacy Program, Harvard Law School; Family Equality Council; First Star, Inc.; Jay Sicklick, Deputy Director, Center for Children’s Advocacy, Connecticut; Juvenile Law Center; Lambda Legal; Lawyers for Children; National Association of Counsel for Children; National Center for Youth Law; Professor Michael J. Dale, Nova Southeastern University College of Law; South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center; and Youth Law Center.

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About Children’s Rights: Every day, children are harmed in America’s broken child welfare, juvenile justice, education, and healthcare systems. Through relentless strategic advocacy and legal action, Children’s Rights holds governments accountable for keeping kids safe and healthyFor more information, please visit www.childrensrights.org.

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