President Donald Trump took another step to protect the most vulnerable children in America Wednesday when he signed an executive order to help foster and adoptive families.
The order seeks to strengthen child welfare programs to help children and families in difficult circumstances. It aims both to promote safe homes so children do not need to enter the foster system and to encourage adoption for the foster children who cannot safely return to their birth parents.
“‘President Trump’s executive order demonstrates how his administration has prioritized placing each of America’s foster kids with the loving, permanent family they deserve,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar. “Since the President took office, we have focused on promoting adoption unlike any previous administration, and we’ve begun to see results.”
Through the executive order, the Trump administration wants to strengthen government relations with community and faith-based foster and adoption agencies.
According to HHS, about 430,000 children are in foster care right now, and almost 124,000 are available for adoption. Each year, about 20,000 children age out of foster care without the support of a loving, permanent family, HHS reports.
Through the executive order, the Trump administration hopes to help states do even more to protect vulnerable children and families. It calls for improving resources, especially trauma-related resources, supporting high-quality legal representation for parents and families, and strengthening connections between the state and faith-based adoption organizations.
Pro-life leaders praised the Trump administration for making children a top priority.
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Thomas Glessner, president of National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which provides support to pregnancy resource centers, called the order a major step forward in the fight for life.
“… we cannot talk about the end of abortion in America without mentioning adoption as a solution,” Glessner said. “America’s adoptive parents are heroes. We applaud President Donald Trump’s executive order strengthening the U.S. child welfare system as a major step toward achieving this goal.”
Pro-life Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana also celebrated the effort. He said his state has seen a record number of adoptions in the past three years, and they have been working hard to keep siblings together, reunite families when possible and find permanent, loving homes for older foster children.
“I’m proud of the work we have done in Louisiana to build better lives for our most vulnerable children and provide support and resources to our foster children and parents across the state,” Edwards said. “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.”
The additional support comes at a critical time. The AP reports the coronavirus deeply affected children, foster/adoption agencies and government child welfare services.
According to the report:
Some family court proceedings have been disrupted, at times delaying a child’s exit from foster care to return home. Many biological parents have been denied normally routine in-person visits with children placed in foster care. And some agencies say it’s become harder than ever to recruit new foster parents.
The executive vice president of Children’s Aid, a private agency that provides foster-care services in New York City, said inquiries from prospective foster parents have dropped to around 10 a month during the pandemic, compared to a normal average of 40 to 50 per month.
The executive order is one of many efforts by the Trump administration to help children in need. Earlier this spring, it advocated for additional foster/adoption support in the coronavirus aid bill, or CARES Act. The spending package includes $45 million in grants for states to help keep families together and support child welfare needs during the crisis.
The HHS Administration for Children & Families also has been striving to support children in foster care. It recently launched the “All-In” Foster Adoption Challenge to find permanent families for the 124,000 children waiting for placement.
“Our number one goal is to help our children and youth by making improvements to our child welfare system, and I’m incredibly grateful to President Trump for taking this monumental action,” said Lynn Johnson, the assistant secretary of the Administration for Children and Families. “These strong actions support vulnerable children and youth nationwide by advancing measures to reduce child abuse and neglect, encouraging family preservation, and strengthening adoption and other forms of permanency for America’s kids.”