New Ways and Means Report Finds HHS Allowed Federal Dollars to Be Spent on LGBTQ and Religious Discrimination in the Foster Care System

Aug 19, 2020
Press Release
Committee Democrats release “Children at Risk: The Trump Administration’s Waiver of Foster Care Nondiscrimination Requirements” following an investigation led by Subcommittee Chairs Danny K. Davis and the late John Lewis
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Ways and Means Committee Democratic staff released a new report that finds the Trump Administration deliberately caused the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to fail its mandate to act in the best interest of abused and neglected children. In January of 2019, Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Chairman Danny K. Davis (D-IL) and then-Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight, the late John Lewis (D-GA), launched an investigation into the Trump Administration’s granting of a waiver to South Carolina that allowed federal funds to be spent in a discriminatory manner within the state’s child welfare system. As detailed in today’s report — “Children at Risk: The Trump Administration’s Waiver of Foster Care Nondiscrimination Requirements”— the Chairs’ investigation found that:
  • The waiver permitted discrimination within the child welfare system based on religion and sexual orientation, resulted in harm to LGBTQ children and families, and is not in the best interest of children; and 
  • HHS documents show that the waiver was driven by Trump Administration appointees who excluded policy experts from the decision-making process. 
“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.”
Child welfare experts agree that protections against discrimination are in the best interest of foster children. Yet HHS failed to consult with either internal or external experts to determine how the South Carolina waiver would affect vulnerable young people in the foster care system, even as internal agency documents reveal that staff recognized the negative consequences the waiver would have on LGBTQ children and foster families. Despite HHS’s failure to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to disclose complete information to the Ways and Means Committee during its congressional investigation, the Subcommittee Chairmen and staff were still able to uncover the agency’s failure to protect young people in their charge. The Committee also established that the South Carolina waiver set a precedent for further discrimination of and harm to individuals across the nation carried out by the Trump Administration.