ACLU Demands HHS Release Information on Decision to Allow Discrimination in Child Welfare
WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today demanding it release all communications around the decision to allow a government-contracted foster care and adoption agency in South Carolina to discriminate against prospective parents because of their religious beliefs.
The request comes after HHS granted the state of South Carolina an exception last week to nondiscrimination requirements for Miracle Hill Ministries, a faith-based foster care and adoption placement agency, to continue restricting eligibility for foster and adoptive parents to couples who share the agency’s protestant Christian beliefs. The agency openly refuses to place children with families who don’t share their Protestant, Christian faith, requiring families complete a “statement of faith” before they are allowed to work with Miracle Hill. Miracle Hill made the news after a Jewish woman filed a complaint after being turned away because of her religion.
“The federal government should not be giving its blessing to the exclusion of foster and adoptive families because they don’t meet a religious litmus test,” said Leslie Cooper, deputy director with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project. “Children in the foster care system need every family willing and able to open their hearts and homes to a child in need. Federal dollars should not be funding religious discrimination that denies them loving families. Americans deserve to know the full details of how HHS reached this disappointing conclusion, and that’s what our FOIA seeks to find.”
The ACLU of South Carolina also submitted a FOIA to the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS), asking they provide the identities of other placement agencies in the area, the number of foster children who have been placed with families, the differences in support given to families who foster through a private agency, like Miracle Hill, or through DSS, and how long it takes an average family to become eligible to foster.
“We already have a severe shortage of families to meet the needs of the more than 4000 children in the foster care system in South Carolina. Allowing agencies like Miracle Hill to turn away families solely because of religion will only exacerbate this crisis. The public has a right to know the extent of the harm caused by this action,” added Susan Dunn, legal director of the ACLU of South Carolina.
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