Magnolia Tribune

New Biden Admin. rule could cut faith-based foster care providers out of helping children

Mississippi’s U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and Attorney General Lynn Fitch, among other elected officials, are challenging a new HHS rule seen as part of “the Biden administration’s radical transgender agenda.”

By: Frank Corder

Thousands of Christian families across the nation open their homes freely to help serve children in the foster care system. Yet, even as the system struggles to serve upwards of 600,000 children annually, new rules for foster care providers could cut those Christian families out of helping over what a group of Republican U.S. Senators are calling “the Biden administration’s radical transgender agenda.”

Six U.S. Senators recently signed a detailed letter asking Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to immediately rescind an Administration for Children and Families (ACF) proposed rule that could force foster care agencies and families to exit the foster care system if they do not comply.

The rule, titled Safe and Appropriate Foster Care Placement Requirements for Titles IV-E and IV-B (88 Fed. Reg. 66752), aims to force foster care providers to affirm a child’s sexual orientation as deemed by the child, instead of their biological sex, as well as refer to the child by a name other than their given name or his or her biologically correct pronouns. If the providers do not comply, they will no longer be eligible to offer their foster care services to children, according to the proposed ACF rule. 

Specifically, the rule would require foster care providers to “utilize the child’s identified pronouns, chosen name, and allow the child to dress in an age-appropriate manner that the child believes reflects their self-identified gender identity and expression.”

Mississippi’s junior Senator, Cindy Hyde-Smith, is among the group of Republican lawmakers challenging the rule. The others include Senators Roger Marshall (Kan.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), Markwayne Mullin (Okla.), and Mike Lee (Utah).

“The premise of this proposal is that any foster care provider who does not ‘affirm’ a child’s sexual orientation or gender that differs from his or her biological sex is perpetuating and committing child abuse and will be shunned for failing to support the foster child’s ‘health and wellbeing,’” the Senators wrote.  “All children in foster care, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, deserve a safe and proper placement.  However, this proposal goes beyond statutory requirements to force states to adopt extreme gender ideology in their placement decisions.”

According to a release from the Senators challenging this rule, they assert that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided no evidence that states’ foster programs are harming children or that the rulemaking is necessary. The Senators say HHS failed to consider or quantify the impact the rule will have on the availability of foster care in states that partner with faith-based agencies, particularly in rural areas. 

“This proposed rule, however, would alienate, if not exclude, a significant number of families motivated by their faith to welcome and serve foster children and their families,” the Senators wrote.  “The Department’s proposal would put religious families and religious providers in the position of declaring themselves unfit placements for a subset of the foster care pool, in spite of their long track records of excellence in serving and loving all children who need help.”

Joining the six Senators in opposing this new HHS rule is 19 Attorneys General from the across the nation, including Mississippi’s Lynn Fitch.

The group of Attorneys General sent their own letter challenging the foster care provider rule in November 2023.

“The foster care system depends on individuals and organizations of faith,” the Attorneys General argue, adding, “States need faith-based organizations in their foster care system. The proposed rule will drive individuals and organizations of faith away, which will increase the strain on the system by reducing the number of available foster homes.”