HHS Rule Would Remove Sexual Orientation Data Collection from Federal Child Welfare Reporting System

by Viet Tran

The final rule would abandon data collection on the sexual orientation of youth in foster care and foster and adoptive parents and guardians.

The Human Rights Campaign responded to the Trump-Pence administration’s latest actions to undermine the rights and welfare of LGBTQ people. The final rule from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would abandon data collection on the sexual orientation of youth in foster care and foster and adoptive parents and guardians in the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS).

The data from the AFCARS provides states, the Children’s Bureau, and foster care and adoption providers with valuable information to ensure safety and security to children in need of homes and families who will care for them.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, the Trump-Pence administration chose to target some of the most vulnerable youth in the foster care system,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in foster care, and this attempt to erase them and important data on adoptive and foster parents undermines efforts to address the marginalization, harassment and discrimination that LGBTQ youth in foster care and families face. HHS should prioritize supporting foster youth and young people, many who aged out of foster care without a family -- including LGBTQ youth -- and are losing safe homes and employment during this public health crisis.”

In April 2020, HHS moved one step closer to finalizing a major change to the federal regulation implementing the civil rights provision, Section 1557, of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to remove explicit protections for LGBTQ people in health care programs and activities by excluding protections from discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity.

Fear of discrimination causes many LGBTQ parents to turn away from foster and adoption agencies. In a recent study, 70 percent of LGBTQ people surveyed said they were concerned or unsure about their ability to find an agency that would welcome them as an LGBTQ applicant, with 78 percent fearing being turned away because of their LGBTQ identity. Fifty-six percent were worried that agency staff wouldn’t be LGBTQ competent.

HRC recently published a research brief outlining the particular health and economic risks faced by the LGBTQ community during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Many in the LGBTQ community are uniquely vulnerable, as they are more likely to work jobs in highly affected industries, often with more exposure and/or higher economic sensitivity to the COVID-19 crisis, are less likely to have health coverage and are more likely to smoke and have chronic illnesses like asthma. Read the full brief here.

HRC has published a report: “LGBTQ-Inclusive Data Collection: A Lifesaving Imperative,” revealing how the failure of state and federal officials to collect full and accurate data on sexual orientation and gender identity is causing harm to LGBTQ Americans, who remain largely invisible to the government entities entrusted with ensuring their health, safety and well-being. Currently, there are no state or federal laws requiring government and government-funded data collection efforts to include sexual orientation and gender identity data alongside other demographic data such as race, ethnicity and sex.