Apr. 01, 2019

HARRISBURG – In an effort to ensure more foster children can find forever families, Rep. Aaron Bernstine (R-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence) sent a letter last week to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requesting relief from federal regulations he says are being unconstitutionally imposed on faith-based adoption and foster care agencies in Pennsylvania.

The letter, which was sent to HHS Assistant Secretary of Administration for Children and Families Lynn Johnson, was co-signed by more than 35 members of the Pennsylvania Legislature.

In the letter, Bernstine notes that the Wolf administration is “forcing Catholic and other faith-based adoption and foster agencies to choose between maintaining and living out their religious beliefs and participating in a federal Title IV-E program, the Pennsylvania SWAN (Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network) Program.”

“Religious agencies have been the backbone of the adoption and foster services system for decades,” Bernstine said. “Without appropriate relief, these vital agencies will be forced to either abandon their religious beliefs or abandon their ministry to children in crisis.”

The letter cites a similar HHS exemption granted to South Carolina in January, and comments made by President Donald Trump at the National Prayer Breakfast in February.

Bernstine also noted that his letter is intended to echo requests for a federal exemption made by Pennsylvania Catholic Charities and other faith-based agencies.

“We thank Rep. Bernstine and all of the other Representatives and Senators for working to protect religious liberties in Pennsylvania,” said Eric Failing, executive director, Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. “For a combined 269 years our Catholic Dioceses have provided adoption services for the people of our state. Four of our dioceses served over 580 children in 2018 alone. It is unconscionable that these critical services be stopped for political purposes.”

A copy of Bernstine’s letter is attached. The letter is also available for download at RepBernstine.com.

Representative Aaron Bernstine
10th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Abbey Haslam
RepBernstine.com / Facebook.com/RepBernstine