A document circulated to media outlets in a 2013 case in Johnson County provides ample justification for a legislative audit, as called for by Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, of how the Kansas Department for Children and Families treats foster parents who are gay or lesbian.
There were DCF e-mails about needing a “strong psych and medical case against” the same-sex couple, about efforts to revoke their foster care license through emergency safety inspections, and about DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore’s push to see the child moved to a family that had adopted his half-siblings but initially declined to adopt him.
Judge Kathleen Sloan wrote that DCF “conducted a ‘witch hunt’ and made a concerted, purposeful effort … to obtain negative information” against the women. She also wrote of DCF: “They wanted to remove him. They intended to remove him. They chose to remove him. They did the bidding of the secretary of the DCF who, while she was not in the home, was deeply involved in directing the course of the case.”
And this: “Not once, in all of the e-mails admitted into evidence over the course of the two days of trial, was there any discussion of what was in the best interest (of the child). Not once.”
Multiplying anecdotes from other same-sex couples further deepen the concern that DCF is trumping up allegations of abuse or other problems to bully and discriminate against such foster parents, and perhaps traumatizing and even endangering children in the process. As many as 10 gay or lesbian couples have expressed such concerns to the group Equality Kansas.
One adoption reportedly was stopped against the recommendations of therapists and a DCF caseworker, even though the child had been in the foster home for four years. In a 2013 court document in another case, a DCF official expressed concern about a same-sex couple’s “active support” of the “sexual acting out” of a foster teen who “sees herself as a lesbian.”
Lisa and Tesa Hines of Wichita also went public after the recent arrest on child-abuse charges of a Topeka City Council member and his wife, who’d had more than a dozen children in their home when they won custody of the child the Hineses had reared for 11 months and wanted to adopt.
Why is the DCF secretary micromanaging placements in Kansas’ privatized foster care system? Is the lack of a foster care and adoption policy regarding same-sex couples part of the problem?
The Legislature must answer those and other questions, and otherwise play its role of overseeing the secretive child welfare system on Kansans’ behalf. The first step can come Thursday, when a legislative committee should approve Ward’s request for an audit.