Editor's note: The Kansas Department for Children and Families’ recent lowering of the standard for substantiating child abuse claims pertains only to the placement of people on a registry that prevents them from working in a licensed day care facility or foster home. An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly characterized the impact of the change.
A legislative hearing last week in Topeka raised serious concerns about the state’s foster care system. Unfortunately, lawmakers also wasted time on what should be a nonissue: same-sex parents.
The state is struggling with record numbers of foster children – more than 6,000 are in the system. In addition, the Department for Children and Families is having difficulty recruiting and retaining social workers and maintaining enough foster parents.
Ed Klumpp, a top law enforcement representative, told lawmakers that police officers and sheriff deputies have trouble reaching social workers and their supervisors by phone. He also said that a 24-hour child abuse hotline is frequently not answered, and that more foster parents need training in de-escalation and conflict resolution.
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Several lawmakers also questioned the structure of the foster care system, which Kansas privatized nearly 20 years ago.
“The kind of system we’ve created isn’t working,” Sen. Julia Lynn, R-Olathe, told the Kansas Health Institute News Service.
Still, with all these concerns, the committee chairman, Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, took time to challenge the validity of same-sex parenting. He had a sociologist testify by phone about the supposed negative outcomes for children of same-sex couples – claims not supported by the vast majority of research or by leading professional organizations. Knox also said he would revive a bill he championed last session to pay more money to foster parents who are in long-term heterosexual marriages.
Fortunately, most lawmakers seem to realize that the state’s foster care system has real problems – and that same-sex parents aren’t one of them.