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Ways & Means Republicans Call on HHS to Halt Rulemaking that Violates Religious Freedom Protections and Exacerbates Nationwide Foster Home Shortage

November 30, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the name of advancing the Biden Administration’s so-called “equity” agenda, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a proposed regulation that would violate religious freedom protections for foster parents and faith-based child welfare providers and exacerbate the nationwide shortage of foster homes, write Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08) and Work and Welfare Subcommittee Chairman Darin LaHood (IL-16), joined by Committee Republicans, in a letter this week to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. The agency’s proposed rule would impose new mandates on state welfare agencies related to the specific care and placement of foster children who identify as LGBTQI+. 

“[T]he Department is well outside the bounds of its statutory authority and misguided in its efforts to virtue signal the objective of supporting LGBTQI+ youth in the foster care system, at the expense of the well-being of the nearly 400,000 children who enter foster care each year. However well-intentioned, by imposing mandates on states exclusively related to a unique subset of children who identify as LGBTQI+, the rule would choose winners and losers by establishing preferences for special services and training based exclusively on a child’s gender identity, violate protections for foster families of free exercise of religious beliefs, while simultaneously exacerbating the nationwide shortage of foster homes.”

Ways and Means Republicans describe in detail three specific areas of concern with the Biden Administration’s proposed regulation:

  • Establishes a new “safe and proper care” standard only for LGBTQI+ children while there are no other federal policies that define how a state must provide “safe and proper care” to children of other unique circumstances, such as children with disabilities, survivors of sexual abuse, or other identifiable characteristics.
  • Creates new classifications for foster parents that could lead to families of faith being denied a license to care for LGBTQI+ children if the parents do not believe it is in the best interest of a child to receive gender-affirming care such as hormonal treatments, surgeries, and transitioning care – as happened to a family under a similar policy in Massachusetts when they were otherwise considered to meet foster care licensing requirements.
  • Rather than focusing on recruiting safe, loving homes for all children, the rule worsens the nationwide shortage on foster care homes by requiring states to recruit and retain a certain percentage of LGBTQI+ affirming homes and requiring states to place transgender children in foster care homes consistent with their gender identity. In practice, this would presumably require states to place a transgender teen male who identifies as a female in a setting where he would sleep, shower, and live with females.

The letter calls on the Biden Administration to abandon its current rulemaking and instead work with Congress to address the real and dire needs of America’s foster care system:

“For these reasons, we ask the Department to immediately withdraw this proposed rule and work with Congress to address the nationwide shortage of foster homes in a way that does not discriminate or exclude families on the basis of religion, sex, race, age, or disability. When government assumes responsibility for children, our primary goal should be to seek the best interests of all children placed in care and to work diligently and conscientiously to ensure the availability of foster families and placements that offer safe and nurturing environments when families are in crisis.”

Read the full letter here.