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.
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.