President Trump's Executive Order on Strengthening the Child Welfare System for America's Children

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump signing the Exectutive Order

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump at the signing of the Executive Order.
Photo Credit: The White House

On June 24, 2020, President Trump signed an historic Executive Order to improve the child welfare system in the United States. The order emphasizes the need to make our child welfare services and systems better so that children can achieve safe, timely permanency with a loving family, whether through reunification, guardianship, kinship care, or adoption. This critical area is a key focus of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, as seen by the “ALL-IN” Foster Adoption Challenge and the accompanying work being done through the Children’s Bureau Adoption Call to Action.

The order addresses three primary areas of system improvement, while also acknowledging the importance of implementing prevention strategies to keep children from entering the foster care system in the first place.

  1. Improving Partnerships: The Executive Order encourages robust partnerships between State agencies and public, private, and faith-based organizations. This is accomplished by (a) empowering the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to collect and publish localized data to aid in the development of community-based prevention and support services and in the recruitment of foster and adoptive families; (b) holding States accountable for recruiting a sufficient number of foster and adoptive homes; and (c) providing guidance to States on best practices to work effectively with faith-based and community partners.
  2. Improving Resources: The second area of reform the order addresses is improving resources for families and children through (a) increasing access to trauma-informed training; (b) expanding financial assistance for guardianship; and (c) enhancing support for kinship care and youth aging out of foster care.
  3. Improving Oversight: Finally, the order improves Federal oversight by (a) requiring each State’s Title IV-E Review and Child and Family Services Review to strengthen the assessments of critical requirements; (b) issuing guidance to States on flexibility in the use of Federal funds to support and encourage high-quality legal representation for parents and children; and (c) developing metrics to measure and evaluate State performance in achieving permanency for children in care.

As Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson said about President Trump’s Executive Order, “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.”

Governors from across the country who have committed to being “all in” on permanency also weighed in with their thoughts. Governor DeWine from Ohio said, “I applaud President Trump for his ongoing support for foster and adoptive children and families in Ohio and across the nation. We are committed to meaningful transformation in our children services system, which is why I launched a top-down review of children services last year. This Executive Order supports and enhances our efforts to ensure all of Ohio’s foster youth live up to their full potential. That is what our children services system should be about—the children.”

“Here in New Hampshire, we have made huge strides improving our child welfare system,” said Governor Sununu. “Ensuring that all children find their forever families is one of our most important responsibilities, but we know that preventing children from entering State care in the first place—by keeping families strong and kids safe at home—is equally important.”

Governor Edwards from Louisiana noted that the State has celebrated 3 straight years of record adoptions. “[W]e have worked hard to find permanent homes for older youth, keep siblings together, and reunite the majority of our children with their birth families or relatives.” He added, “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. I look forward to continuing to work closely with our partners at the Federal level to set more adoption records in Louisiana and find permanent homes for our children.”

First Lady Melania Trump hosting a roundtable disccusion on foster care in America

First Lady Melania Trump hosts a roundtable discussion on foster care in America, joined by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Senior Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, Assistant Secretary of the Administration for Children and Families Lynn Johnson, and others.
Photo Credit: The White House

Continuing the momentum of the Executive Order and the work being done by the Administration for Children and Families and States across the nation, First Lady Melania Trump held a roundtable only a few days after the signing of the Executive Order to discuss the child welfare system and the Administration’s efforts to support safe, loving, permanent families for children and youth. The event brought together foster care advocates, young adults who had previously been in care, foster parents, and representatives from foster care and adoption organizations. Participants also included Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine, Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, First Lady Donna Edwards of Louisiana, and State Senator Doug Mastriano of Pennsylvania.