Child Welfare and LGBTQ Advocacy Groups Condemn HHS Delay in Collecting Critical Foster Care and Adoption Data

Delay will harm LGBTQ, tribal, and other vulnerable foster youth who are overrepresented in foster care and experience worse outcomes.

March 14, 2018—For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON, DC — Leaders of the Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign are condemning the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) planned two-year delay in collecting critical foster care and adoption data as required by a 2016 rule. The delay will be officially published by HHS on Thursday March 15, 2018.

States are already fourteen months into preparing to make updates to their foster care and adoption data collection systems by the 2019 deadline. The HHS notice would extend that deadline to 2021.

HHS has not updated the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) since 1993 despite two statutes requiring adding data elements (the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act of 2008, and the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014), and the lack of data needed to measure progress on implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act. HHS collected comments from states, tribes, and the public on needed improvements to AFCARS in 2008, 2010, 2015, and 2016. In addition to the proposed delay, HHS has announced plans to reopen the 2016 rule to further comments, which could lead to permanent elimination of critical data elements.

“We believe that states and the federal government can benefit from collecting and analyzing data on health, behavioral or mental health conditions; prior adoptions; sibling placements; environment at removal and child and family circumstances at removal; foster family home type and other living arrangements; and location of living arrangements,” said Schylar Baber, Executive Director of Voice for Adoption. “By collecting data on these key areas, we can determine if certain states are succeeding in ensuring safety, permanency, and well-being for children and how their successes can be replicated in other communities. Although we know that data collection has significant costs, the costs of not knowing what is happening in our child welfare systems is far greater.”

The notice on the delay in the rule specifically references data elements related to sexual orientation, health and educational information, information on guardians and guardian subsidies, and the Indian Child Welfare Act.

“HHS-funded research has shown that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth, who comprise 19% of foster youth over 12, suffer unacceptably high rates of mistreatment, hospitalizations, placements in group homes (instead of with loving families), serial placements, and homelessness,” said The Rev. Stan J. Sloan, CEO of Family Equality Council. “Providing LGBTQ competent, supportive care will save the lives of youth that current systems fail to protect, and will reduce the costs of multiple placements, hospitalizations, and group home assignments that result from a shortage of placement opportunities with stable, supportive families. Years of public comment periods by HHS have shown that new data collection is needed to drive and measure the improved outcomes needed for youth, including LGBTQ and tribal youth, that have too often been poorly served by our foster care system.”

The announced delay comes in the wake of HHS’ proposed elimination of data collection on transgender elders in its National Survey of Older Americansthe removal of the mentions of the health and well-being of LGBTQ people and other minorities from its draft mission statement, and its proposed rule which could allow faith-based health care providers to deny services to LGBTQ people.

“So much life-saving data about people affected by adoption and foster care is gathered only in AFCARS, year after year. What could possibly be the motivation for DELAYING for years the simple act of collecting data that can deliver improved family well-being outcomes for our LGBTQ children and prospective parents?” asked Dr. Jaime M. Grant, Executive Director, PFLAG National. “Is this the Department of Health and Human Services? Or the Department of Illness and Death? It’s hard to tell these days.”

The Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign is comprised of over 250 members including child welfare, faith, business, and civil rights organizations, and advocates for supportive care, stability, and a permanent, loving family for all foster youth and for ending discrimination against LGBTQ foster youth and potential parents. Family Equality CouncilPFLAG National, and Voice for Adoption lead the campaign’s National Policy Coalition.

About Family Equality Council

Family Equality Council advances legal and lived equality for LGBTQ families, and for those who wish to form them, through building community, changing hearts and minds, and driving policy change. Family Equality Council believes every LGBTQ person should have the right and opportunity to form and sustain a loving family, regardless of who they are or where they live. Learn more at familyequality.org.

About PFLAG National

PFLAG — now in its 45th anniversary year — is the nation’s first and largest organization uniting families, allies, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people. PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education, and advocacy, and has nearly 400 chapters and 200,000 supporters crossing multiple generations of families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas across America. To learn more, visit pflag.orglike us on Facebook (/pflag), or follow us on Twitter (@pflag) or Instagram.

About Voice for Adoption

Voice for Adoption (VFA) develops and advocates for improved adoption policies. Recognized as a national leader in special needs adoption, VFA works closely with federal and state legislators, as well as other child welfare organizations, to make a difference in the lives of the 118,000 children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted and the families who adopt children from foster care. To learn more visit www.voice-for-adoption.org