Gov. Sam Brownback objected Tuesday to accusations that the Kansas Department for Children and Families has weighed sexual orientation when making decisions about where to place foster children.
The policy doesn’t exist. The policy is to do what’s in the best interest of the child.
Gov. Sam Brownback, disputing allegations that the Department for Families and Children has a policy favoring heterosexual couples over same-sex couples to foster and adopt
“The policy doesn’t exist. The policy is to do what’s in the best interest of the child. The policy, which is both state and federal, is to try and keep sibling groups together,” Brownback said.
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“The policy … is to try to have preference to place with relatives. Those are the policy pieces that exist.”
Tom Witt, executive director of the LGBT-rights group Equality Kansas, took a different view, saying that “the policy is to look out for the best interest of the child, and that has been set aside in favor of hassling gay and lesbian households.”
The policy is to look out for the best interest of the child, and that has been set aside in favor of hassling gay and lesbian households.
Tom Witt, executive director of the LGBT-rights group Equality Kansas
A legislative committee will vote Thursday on a proposal for an audit into the allegations of discrimination.
Brownback said he thought it would be a good idea to have a broader audit “to look at overall the foster care and the adoption system in the state … to have a look at the whole thing.”
The administration’s critics have pointed to a 2013 sealed court order in which a Johnson County judge blasted the DCF for showing more concern about sexual orientation than the best interest of the child.
Judge Kathleen Sloan ruled against the DCF’s decision to move a 16-month-old child from lesbian foster parents who wanted to adopt to a family who had adopted the child’s half-siblings but initially was not interested in taking this child. The judge ruled that the child should be returned to the home of the lesbian couple.
The 2013 ruling references e-mails in which DCF officials repeatedly mentioned the couple’s sexual orientation, wrote of the need for “a strong psych and medical case against them” and made plans to try to get their foster care license revoked.
Brownback brought up the case and suggested that reporters needed to dig deeper, implying he might know of a development since 2013.
“The judge that released or whoever released these sealed court documents – which I don’t know who did in the 2013 case – but where is that child today?” Brownback said. “I don’t know if you’ve done any checking on that or any digging into it.
“I’m saying I’m hoping people would get the full story,” Brownback said when asked directly whether he knows where the child is today. “And it would seem that would be a point of curiosity if we’re talking about a 2013 case.”
A spokeswoman for the DCF would not say whether there had been developments in the case since 2013 or whether the governor had been informed.
A check of Johnson County court records shows that one of the women seeking the adoption obtained a protection of abuse order against the other in November 2014.
“Last night cursed me. Has threatened 2 times that she will put a bullet in my head,” the woman wrote in the petition for the protection order. “Punched me in the back 2 times, slapped my face and boxed my ears. Breaks things in my house, spitting on floors, walls.”
The petition also seeks protection for the child, although it does not mention any instances of abuse against the child.
The protection order was granted and will remain in effect until January 2016. It is unclear from the public documents whether the child is with one of the two women or back in the DCF system.
Witt called the situation tragic but said in an e-mail that it “doesn’t change the fact that DCF and other administration officials have ignored the best interest of children in their rush to target gay and lesbian families.”
He said his organization has heard from multiple couples “whose relationships, through years of DCF harassment, have been strained to the breaking point.”
Questions about whether the DCF discriminates against same-sex couples surfaced last month after a Wichita couple, Lisa and Tesa Hines, came forward with accusations that the DCF had strongly weighed sexual orientation when it recommended a heterosexual Topeka couple over them to adopt a child they had fostered for nearly a year.
The Topeka couple, Johnathan and Allison Schumm, were arrested last month on child abuse charges. Johnathan Schumm is a member of the Topeka City Council.
Since then, more same-sex couples have accused the DCF of discrimination.
Asked about the case, Brownback noted the policy of keeping siblings together. The Schumms were serving as adoptive parents for half-siblings of the child at the center of that case. He also emphasized that “those placements were made by a judge.”
Contributing: Amy Renee Leiker of the Eagle