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VFA Submits Comments on HHS-Proposed Rule Change to Non-Discrimination Policy

resist discrimination

VFA Submits Comments on HHS-Proposed Rule Change to Non-Discrimination Policy

VFA submitted comments to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources, Health and Human Services Grants Regulation, on the HHS notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would repeal anti-discrimination provisions as implemented during the Obama Administration before the due date of Thursday, December 19. 

The VFA comment states: 

"This proposed repeal of certain non-discrimination protections, rules or laws as they apply to child welfare placements is not in the best interested of our nation’s children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted. Further, it is hindering the nation’s ability to care for more than 687,000 children who will spend at least part of their year in foster care. With the number children in care at any one time being around 430,000, our country needs every qualified caring family we can get. We know that children who linger in foster care are more likely to have negative life outcomes, decreased chances at resiliency, and compounded traumatic exposure. In long-term and stable families, where children and parents are able to be who they are, without shame, and without fear – there comes great potential. The potential to mediate the impacts of trauma, the ability to foster resilience, and the opportunity for a child to reach their full potential. Which is exactly what our child welfare system is created for."

In part, VFA highlighted that nationally it is recognized that organizations and government do what is in the "best interest" of the children and families we serve. That this has required an evolution of policy and practice.

The letter states: 

"Foster care is designed to be a short-term safe haven. It is only for the most serious cases where children are pulled from what can be life-threatening situations. Many of these children are removed from homes where they are experiencing sexual abuse, physical abuse, severe neglect, substance abuse, and much more. These youth have lost their families and are left in the charge of our government to protect them. To, in essence, become their parents and ensure that we do everything we can to do what is in their best interest, not the best interest of the government or its leaders or its private partners.

As child welfare, foster care, and adoption policy and practice has evolved over the years, one thing has become evident where faith-based and other private agencies and public organizations have started to align—that the needs of children come first. Putting children first, or focusing on their “best interest,” has meant changing policy and practice. 

Right now, the U.S. is in the middle of a culture war involving sexual orientation, religion, and marriage. If this rule is passed, the culture war’s front will be fought at the expense of children involved with our foster care and adoption systems. The “best interest” of children as written into federal law under Title IV-B and Title IV-E of the Social Security Act cannot be served if we turn this into a political fight. We urge HHS to withdraw this NPRM and work to implement the final rule of December 12, 2016.

The deadline for submitting comments is on or before Thursday, December 19, 2019. Comments must be submitted online at https://www.regulations.gov. Search for: RIN 0991–AC16. Follow the “Comment Now” instructions. The NPRM is here.  

For a copy of the VFA comments to read, or to use to inform your own comments, go here