WASHINGTON, D.C. (The Livingston Parish News) – Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has praised a recent executive order issued by President Donald Trump directing the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department to further assist foster care children.
“We are grateful to President Trump and his administration for their commitment to strengthening and improving America’s foster care system through this executive order,” Edwards said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work closely with our partners at the federal level to set more adoption records in Louisiana and find permanent homes for our children.”
The order bolstering partnerships among state and local organizations has received the support of Republican governors (Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Texas) and Democratic governors (Kansas, Louisiana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island), according to HHS. The department says it plans to follow up with 20 more states, asking their governments to work more with non-profits.
More than 400,000 children are currently in the foster care system. Among them, more than 124,000 children are waiting for adoption, with nearly 6 out of 10 (58.4 percent) already legally eligible for adoption.
“It is the goal of the United States to promote a child welfare system that reduces the need to place children into foster care,” the order states, “achieves safe permanency for those children who must come into foster care, and does so more quickly and more effectively; places appropriate focus on children who are waiting for adoption, especially those who are 9 years and older, are in sibling groups, or have disabilities; and decreases the proportion of young adults who age out of the foster care system.”
HHS Secretary Alex Azar said, “Since the president took office, we have focused on promoting adoption unlike any previous administration, and we’ve begun to see results. The president’s executive order lays out bold reforms for our work with states, communities, and faith-based partners to build a brighter future for American kids who are in foster care or in crisis.”
Prior to the order being issued, HHS sought input from foster children and state officials across the country.
The order prioritizes creating robust partnerships among state agencies and public, private, faith-based, and community organizations, improving access to adequate resources for caregivers and youth, and improving processes to prevent unnecessary removal and secure permanency for children.
HHS also issued a new rule streamlining what more than half of the states have said are burdensome and intrusive foster care practices introduced by the former administration. The new rule change is expected to save $42.9 million a year.
Elizabeth Darling, commissioner for the Administration on Children, Youth and Families said, “By improving this data collection, it streamlines reporting requirements that makes it easier for child welfare workers to serve foster youth and allows states to more easily facilitate adoptions. We are taking important steps forward in protecting the health and well-being of kids.”
The original policy’s data collection includes information on whether a minor is pregnant or not, prior adoptions and guardianship history, and mental health conditions. Other metrics – including educational stability, “private agency living arrangement,” and “authority for placement and care responsibility – were too difficult to do in a meaningful way, HHS said.
The rule removes requiring a caseworker to ask a minor about their sexual orientation and self-described gender identity.
By Bethany Blankley | The Center Square