One bedroom in David Rose Sr.’s home has a closet filled with toys and clothes decorated with Disney princesses. The other has an empty crib and an empty boy’s bed. Toy cars and board games such as Chutes and Ladders are stacked under a side table in the living room.
Rose fought for two years to adopt his grandchildren. But in January, he was told the children would instead be adopted by their foster family.
Rose said he believes that decision came because he is a single black man living in a fourplex while the foster family selected to adopt the children is a white, married couple with a house in the suburbs.
“I would think there were laws in place to protect families from strangers coming in and basically stealing our family members, but as it turns out in Kansas it is happening right before my eyes,” Rose wrote in a letter to Gov. Jeff Colyer in February.
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Now the state appears ready to reverse itself. On Friday, Rose received a call from St. Francis Community Services, which contracts with the state for foster and adoption services, saying he would be allowed to have his grandkids after all. After The Eagle sent a list of questions to the Department for Children and Families, Rose was told of a new hearing scheduled for Thursday.
“Under a new Administration and new DCF Wichita Region leadership we are immediately working with our contractor involved to review this matter and determine if additional or different steps should be taken,” Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel wrote in an emailed statement to The Eagle. “We strongly support keeping families together when it is in the best interest of children.”
Three years ago, Rose’s two grandchildren were taken away from their parents because of drug use. A third sibling was taken away after his birth in 2016. Now, the children are 6, 5 and 1.
During that first year, the goal was to return the children to their parents. When that didn’t happen, St. Francis said a family member would be able to adopt them, said Kelli Meeker, the children’s maternal grandmother. Rose is the children’s paternal grandfather.
For two years, the children lived with foster parent Marlynn Dinsmore. Dinsmore said she couldn’t speak about the children, but would vouch for Rose.
Rose was permitted to watch the children on weekends, including overnight, and when the Dinsmores went on vacation, Dinsmore said.
In 2016, Rose passed his home study, leading them to believe that the children would move in with him, said Meeker, Rose and Dinsmore.
In December 2016, things changed, Rose said.
Dinsmore had asked that the children be moved to a different foster home because she was adopting an infant. When she learned the children were moving to a family that wanted to adopt, she tried to withdraw her request because she was afraid the family would want to adopt the children instead of Rose adopting them.
Kansas law states that “the court shall give preference (for adoption), to the extent that the court finds it is in the best interests of the child, first to granting such custody for adoption to a relative of the child and second to granting such custody to a person with whom the child has close emotional ties.”
Dinsmore said she believes the state moved the children in with their current foster family to make those “close emotional ties” so the family could be chosen over Rose in the “best interest staffing,” a meeting that determines who should adopt children in the state’s care.
“Although the team recognized that you have many positive attributes, they felt the family selected was the best match for this child’s strengths and needs,” St. Francis wrote in an October letter to Rose.
The children’s foster mother who had plans to adopt them said she could not talk when reached by phone. St. Francis referred questions to DCF.
A search by the Wichita Eagle found no criminal records or bankruptcy filings for Rose. His job with the city of Wichita pays about $42,000 per year.
In January, Judge Kevin Smith upheld the previous ruling of the court that the foster family’s adoption should proceed and that no further appeals were available to Rose, according to court documents Rose shared with the Eagle. Smith would not comment on the case.
Rose and others have a few ideas as to why he was told he would not be allowed to adopt his grandchildren.
Perhaps it’s because he said he would still allow his son to see them, he said.
There have also been allegations of spanking, but Rose said he would never hit the children. Dinsmore said she never had any indication that he spanked them. Current Kansas law allows spanking that does not leave marks.
‘A single, black man’
Brenda Oliver, Rose’s girlfriend, said she thinks the state recommended another family because Rose isn’t married and is 62.
Dinsmore and Meeker, who are both white, say the foster family could have been selected due to race and socioeconomic status.
“Honestly, I feel like he’s a single black man who maybe doesn’t make as much money as these people that live out in (a suburb of Wichita),” Meeker said. “If they have something on him that I don’t know, then say it, so we aren’t totally confused as to how you can rip three family members away.”
“To me, the bottom line is we could move a lot of kids out of neighborhoods that are not great in Wichita and put them in homes that are financially better off in better neighborhoods and better schools all over the city, but that’s not what it’s about,” Dinsmore said. “It’s about family and kinship. That’s supposed to be number one. … They are his blood grandchildren. Those other people can adopt somebody that doesn’t have family.”
Since the children moved in with their new foster family about a year ago, Rose’s time with the children has decreased. While he used to spend entire weekends with them, he now sees them every other weekend for about nine hours.
When Rose does have his grandchildren over, they have a lot of fun, he said. While the little girl and Oliver have girl time, baking or watching Sofia the First, the boys play X-Box, ride bikes and play tag.
Now, he’s waiting anxiously for the hearing Thursday.
“It can’t get here fast enough,” Rose said.