President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE on Wednesday signed an executive order intended to improve the child welfare system, seeking to strengthen foster care and adoption programs amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The order, which Trump signed in the Oval Office without media present, aims to improve transparency and oversight and increase collaboration between public, private and faith-based groups that focus on child welfare.
"Among other changes, the Order seeks to increase partnerships between public, private, faith-based, and community organizations to help keep families together and, when that is not possible, to find children forever families," the White House said in a news release announcing the order.
The measure directs Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to assist care-givers by increasing the availability of trauma-informed training, expanding educational options and addressing barriers to accessing federal funding.
The order also attempts to improve federal oversight of child welfare requirements by putting HHS in charge of advising states on the use of federal funds to support legal representation for parents and kids.
First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpFormer aide sees Melania Trump as 'the doomed French queen': book If another 9/11 happened in a divided 2021, could national unity be achieved again? Former Trump aide Stephanie Grisham planning book: report MORE praised the order in a tweet, noting that the child welfare system "is responsible for creating safe & stable homes for more than 400,000 children."
It comes as foster care and adoption agencies across the U.S. struggle with effects related to the coronavirus pandemic. The Associated Press reported that family court proceedings have been interrupted by the outbreak, routine visits for biological parents have been disrupted, and some agencies have reported having difficulty recruiting potential foster parents.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took issue with parts of the order that urge collaboration with faith-based agencies, noting the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the fall over whether Philadelphia is allowed to exclude Catholic services that refused to allow same-sex couples to become foster parents from the city's foster care system.
"While the Trump administration talks about the need for more foster parents, it is making arguments at the Supreme Court and authorizing discrimination in federally funded foster care programs that could result in many prospective parents being turned away by agencies for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability to care for a child," Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement.