Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new regulations that would help protect the religious liberty of adoption and foster agencies across the country. The proposed rule is a reaction to an Obama era policy that prohibited those agencies from discriminating against LGBT couples or individuals.

This is a welcome change in policy for many Christian adoption and foster organizations. Over the last couple of years, Christian based agencies have struggled to contend with the Obama-era policies. Although there is a waiver option available, some agencies have been forced to shut their doors or deal with lengthy or costly lawsuits. The Daily Citizen has covered this cases in the past.

According to the press release, the new rule would force grantees, adoption and foster agencies, to comply with all the “nondiscrimination provisions passed by Congress and signed into law.” This would include the Civil Rights Act

While these developments are extremely positive, the impact may be a bit limited. Lori Windham of the Becket Law Firm, explains:

“HHS just proposed a regulation that will allow faith-based adoption and foster care providers to serve their communities consistent with their religious beliefs. That’s a smart thing to do, but it would only fix part of the problem. … Unfortunately, state and local governments use similar rules to try and shut down faith-based agencies. Faith-based agencies therefore still need help from SCOTUS.”

“The federal rule will not stop Philadelphia or Michigan from discriminating against faith-based foster and adoption agencies. … In Michigan, the state attorney general is trying to end partnerships with faith-based agencies. The Buck family and their adoption agency went to court and got an order to keep the agency open. It shouldn’t take a court order to allow agencies to unite children with loving families. … In 2018, Philadelphia put out a call for 300 new foster care families to address the growing crisis. Just days later, the city stopped placing any kids in homes who work with Catholic Social Services, one of the city’s best agencies,” Windham explained.

So, although this is a victory, the problem still hasn’t been fully addressed. The Equality Act, which has been passed by the House but not the Senate, would have amended the Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. This would mean that even if this new regulation is in effect, the potential passing of the Equality Act would still force agencies to place children with same-sex couples or close unless there are religious freedom protections. 

The latest statistics show that about 443,000 children are currently in foster care in the United States. Each of these children deserves a stable and loving home, and to deny the right of some agencies to follow their religious convictions is going to make it even harder to find children the home that they deserve.

Senator James Lankford (R-OK) released an email statement sharing his support for this legislation. “I’m grateful to the Administration for their support of the right of any group, including faith-based organizations, to help find a home for foster children in the foster care system or seeking adoption. The government should not stand in the way of groups trying to find children a loving home by forcing them to abandon the same faith that drives them to care for these vulnerable children.”

To help with this foster care crisis, Focus on the Family has a program called Wait No More, which encourages Christian families across the country to consider foster care or adoption. Wait No More will be holding its next event in Tampa, Florida on March 28, 2020. If you would like to support foster and adoption families, learn more about what you can do here.