Politics & Government

Kansas lawmakers reject proposal to audit alleged anti-gay discrimination at DCF

Kansas lawmakers voted down a proposal to audit whether the Kansas Department for Children and Families is discriminating against same-sex couples in adoption and foster care cases.

The Legislative Post-Audit Committee voted 5-4 Tuesday against approving the audit proposal from Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita.

Ward has been calling for an audit since December, after multiple same-sex couples stepped forward to accuse the agency of discrimination and documents surfaced showing that in 2013 a Johnson County judge accused the agency, which oversees adoption and foster care, of conducting a “witch hunt” against a lesbian couple serving as foster parents.

“It’s unconscionable for this group to ignore the evidence presented,” Ward said, noting that he had obtained signed statements from 17 attorneys and three social workers involved in child-in-need-of-care cases supporting the claim that the DCF weighs sexual orientation.

DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore sent the committee a letter the day before the meeting saying that the agency does not “have any policies, forms or other documents related to same-sex couples or other individuals in non-traditional family structures serving as foster or adoptive parents.”

Ward’s concerns were not satisfied by the DCF’s assurances in the letter.

“OK, let’s go find out. Let’s go look at the files, let’s chase the e-mails, let’s investigate by talking to people involved in the day-to-day operation, because people who discriminate don’t typically come into legislative committees and admit they discriminate,” he said. “You have to go and investigate.”

The committee approved a broader audit of the foster care system in January, but tabled the question about discrimination until April.

Rep. John Barker, R-Abilene, said the committee voted down the proposal because of limited manpower.

There were about 30 other audits up for consideration and Barker said that lawmakers were more interested in pursuing an audit suggested by Rep. Mark Hutton, R-Wichita, to evaluate energy use by state agencies, a proposal that Barker hopes will find cost-savings for the cash-strapped state.

Other audits approved Tuesday include:

▪ An audit into how Kansas school districts are using federal funds, which was proposed by Rep. Ron Highland, R-Wamego.

▪ An audit of health insurance costs for Kansas school districts, which was proposed by Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover.

▪ An audit into delays in processing Medicaid eligibility, which was proposed by Rep. Louis Ruiz, D-Kansas City.

▪ An audit to review the state’s options for an emergency telecommunication system if it opts out of the federal First Responder Network Authority, which was proposed by Sen. Julia Lynn, R-Olathe.

▪ An audit of the effect of the loss in federal funding at Osawatomie State Hospital after it lost its Medicare certification late last year, which was proposed by Rep. Henry Helgerson, D-Wichita.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3