Charities Can Reject Foster Parents for Immigrant Kids Over Religion

By Justin Rohrlich

Private charities housing undocumented immigrant children in several states are permitted by law to reject prospective foster families based on religious objections.

Under current policy, undocumented minors apprehended by Customs and Border Protection are sent to the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Department of Health and Human Services. From there ORR tries to place the kids with a sponsor, usually a relative. The last option is a “licensed program willing to accept legal custody; or an adult individual or entity seeking custody.”

Right now, HHS oversees more than 100 shelters in 17 states, a number of which are operated by nonprofit providers housing kids separated at the border by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. In nine states, providers are protected by law if they reject an applicant (or child) on religious grounds.

In Texas, Republican-sponsored legislation passed last year guarantees organizations that refuse prospective foster or adoptive parents “under circumstances that conflict with the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs,” won’t be penalized or lose government funding because of it.

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