The newly confirmed secretary for children and families improperly reversed a decision about adoption for three children in foster care, a Sedgwick County judge ruled Thursday.
The three children were to have been adopted by their foster family, but the Department for Children and Families said last week that they should instead go to their grandfather after inquiries by The Wichita Eagle.
Judge Kevin Smith said DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel’s decision “potentially placed all three children in serious harm” and that he expects her to attend the next hearing. He upheld his earlier decision that all necessary factors had been considered in selecting the foster parents to adopt and said the children should remain with their foster family while continuing visits with their grandfather. A hearing was set for next month.
“Our intent was to ask for a 30-day continuance to do our due diligence, given the serious concerns raised by the grandfather about his grandchildren’s future," Meier-Hummel said in an emailed statement. "The Court has the authority to make decisions in the children’s best interest, and we respect that authority.”
Smith’s rebuke of Meier-Hummel, who has led the Department for Children and Families in an acting capacity since December, came during a review hearing about David Rose Sr.'s grandchildren. The Eagle reported earlier this week that Rose has sought for two years to adopt his grandchildren.
Smith said The Eagle article “did not include all the facts.”
Rose and others told The Eagle that they believe the foster family was chosen over Rose because he is a single black man living in a fourplex, while the foster family is a married white couple with a house in the suburbs. Rose was allowed to watch the children on weekends and for weeks at a time when they were with a different foster family.
Much of the hearing focused on whether the reversal by DCF had been made on new information.
The guardian ad litem for the children said she was told only that the grandfather was now chosen because he has no criminal or DCF history that should prevent him from adoption and that he has a relationship with the children.
That information was already considered, Smith said.
Megan Monsour, attorney for the children’s foster family who hope to adopt, said St. Francis Community Services never determined that Rose was an appropriate placement for the children.
“We’re left ... perplexed at this unilateral decision (by DCF),” she said. “These children could have the permanency they deserve next week.”
She said Rose went through improper channels and that The Eagle article was “wholly lacking in facts.” She did not specify what facts.
There were three main concerns about Rose, Monsour said: Housing, boundaries with the children’s biological parents and a therapist's recommendation for the foster family. Rose has said he would allow the children’s biological parents to remain involved in their lives, she said.
Every professional involved with the case concluded that the foster parents should adopt, Monsour said.
Smith said the “most compelling reason against choosing Mr. Rose” was the possible involvement of the children’s biological parents, who had their rights to the children terminated. There had been previous instances of physical neglect and abandonment with the biological parents, he said.
Jennifer Goheen, who stood in for Rose’s attorney who was unavailable, said Rose does not want the children’s biological parents to have unsupervised time with the children. She also pointed out that Rose moved into larger housing and took parenting classes when asked to do so.
“There’s one person whose bond has never been disrupted, and that’s my client,” she said.
Monsour and the foster parents would not comment as they left the court room.
Rose said he felt terrible after the hearing and that if bringing Meier-Hummel to Wichita is necessary for him to adopt, then “that’s what it takes.”
“I thought I would have the kids by now,” Rose said. “It’s in the judge’s hands.”
Smith told the courtroom that he is unlikely to reverse his decision at the next hearing.
A court appointed special advocate (known as a CASA) was also appointed for the children Thursday. This trained volunteer is tasked with building a relationship with the children and advocating for their needs.
Katherine Burgess: 316-268-6400, @kathsburgess