The Donald Trump administration announced on Wednesday that they will grant South Carolina’s request to protect state faith-based foster care programs.
On Wednesday, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) granted a request from South Carolina to protect the religious liberty of its state faith-based foster care providers.
Nine days before Donald Trump became president, the Obama administration implemented a regulation that bars federally funded foster care programs.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster asked the ACF to exempt the state.
Miracle Hill Ministries, a local church in Greenville, South Carolina, soon found itself in danger of losing federal funding because they ask foster care candidates to testify about their faith.
Reid Lehman, Miracle Hill’s president and CEO, said in January, “Our existence and identity is tied to our faith in God and belief in Jesus Christ.”
Lynn Johnson, assistant secretary for the ACF, said in a statement on Wednesday, “We have approved South Carolina’s request to protect religious freedom and preserve high-quality foster care placement options for children.”
Faith-based organizations that provide foster care services not only perform a great service for their communities, they are exercising a legally-protected right to practice their faith through good works. Our federal agency should not – and, under the laws adopted by Congress, cannot – drive faith-motivated foster care providers out of the business of serving children without a compelling government interest, especially now that child welfare systems are stretched thin as a result of the opioid epidemic.
“This decision preserves all of the foster care agencies currently available for children in South Carolina by ensuring faith-based organizations can continue to serve this vulnerable population,” Johnson said. “It protects minors who are in need of as many options as possible for being placed in loving foster families.”
Johnson said, “The government should not be in the business of forcing foster care providers to close their doors because of their faith. Religious freedom is a fundamental human right.”
“By granting this request to South Carolina, HHS is putting foster care capacity needs ahead of burdensome regulations that are in conflict with the law,” Johnson concluded.