Trump Signs Order to Strengthen US Child Welfare System

June 24, 2020 Updated: June 25, 2020

NEW YORK—President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday aimed at strengthening child-welfare programs nationwide.

It comes as child-protection agencies across the United States struggle with effects related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar hailed the order as a step toward bold reforms. The goals are ambitious—curtailing child maltreatment, strengthening adoption programs and encouraging supports for at-risk families so fewer children need to be separated from their homes and placed in foster care.

mom gardening with children
Children do best when they connect with their caregiver in different ways throughout the day. (Von bokan/shutterstock)

The executive order envisions three basic areas of reform:

  • Creating “robust partnerships” between state agencies and public, private, faith-based, and community organizations. The goals would include the development of community-based, abuse-prevention, and family support services and holding states accountable for recruiting an adequate number of foster and adoptive families.
  • Improving resources provided to caregivers and those in care. The order says HHS will increase the availability of trauma-informed training, support guardianship through funding and grants, and enhance support for kinship care and for the roughly 20,000 young people who age out of foster care each year.
  • Improving federal oversight over key statutory child welfare requirements. Among other steps, this proposal directs HHS to advise states on the possible use of federal funds to support high-quality legal representation for parents and children.

According to HHS, there are about 430,000 children now in the U.S. foster care system, including nearly 124,000 who are eligible for adoption.

About 20,000 of these young people age out of the system each year without a permanent family, according to a White House newsletter.

“About 20,000 of these young people age out of the system each year without a permanent family,” the newsletter reads. “These young people without “forever families” endure a range of heartbreaking outcomes. Forty percent experience homelessness. Half are unemployed by age 24. More than a quarter end up incarcerated, and 1 in 4 face post-traumatic stress disorder.

“America cannot rely on government alone to care for our nation’s children. Improving our foster care system will take partnerships with private, faith-based, and community organizations to achieve the best outcomes for vulnerable children and families,” it adds, noting this as the reason why Trump signed the child welfare executive order.

“President Trump values solutions that are pro-family, pro-child, and pro-permanency,” the White House statement continues. “By encouraging and helping states work with more community partners, those who step up to help America’s children will have a strong system of support.”

HHS said its Administration for Children and Families has helped to reduce the number of children entering foster care. For the fiscal year 2019, it expects that entries into foster care will total about 250,000—down 9 percent from 2016.

By David Crary

Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.