President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday to bolster the federal government’s work with community and faith-based groups in adoption and foster care.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that the order “lays out bold reforms for our work with states, communities, and faith-based partners.”
According to the HHS, the order will encourage better partnerships between states and faith-based and community organizations in adoption and foster care, help publicize best practices, and states and local authorities to recruit more foster and adoptive families.
Bethany Christian Services, which provides social services in more than 30 states and more than a dozen countries, praised the order for its insistence that the federal government work together with community and faith-based organizations in an “‘all hands on deck’ approach.”
The group said Wednesday that the new order “underscores the need for all facets of our nation to work better together for the sake of vulnerable children: governments, states, nonprofit partners, faith communities, and families.”
HHS says the order will also “increase the availability of trauma-informed training” to help caregivers, and investigate possible “barriers to federal assistance” for youth leaving foster care.
There are currently around 430,000 children in the foster care system, according to HHS. Nearly 20,000 children age out of the system each year without having been adopted.
“We must improve equitable outcomes within our child welfare system through child and family-centric innovative solutions and a collaborative ‘all hands on deck’ approach,” Bethany said. “One sector of society can't meet this need on its own; it will take all of us working together.”
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA)--which won a free speech case at the Supreme Court in 2018--also applauded the order. The group’s president Thomas Glessner stated on Wednesday that “we cannot talk about the end of abortion in America without mentioning adoption as a solution.”
White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway told reporters on Wednesday that the order would aim to bolster foster care and adoption agencies which have been affected by the pandemic.
The pandemic posed serious challenges for social services agencies in matching foster children with families, and for the routines of the children themselves.
A staff member at St. Vincent Catholic Charities in Lansing, Michigan, told CNA in April that the disruption to the childrens’ routines of meeting with birth parents or school friends was “a trauma” for them.
The executive order comes ahead of a Supreme Court case involving Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia. In 2018, the city stopped referrals of foster children with the organization due to its faith-based stance on marriage. The case has been scheduled for the Supreme Court’s fall 2020 term.