After several allegations Kansas’ child welfare system discriminates against same-sex couples who want to foster and adopt children, state auditors found guardians had mixed opinions on the system’s fairness.
Kansas auditors found most guardians at litem, or court-appointed attorneys who represent children, it surveyed did not believe LGBT parents were treated differently from heterosexual parents in a report released Dec. 15. Former Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore criticized the audit in a written response.
“We are hopeful that this survey and the responses, which statistically fail to suggest or support a bias, address the concerns raised by legislators and put this issue to rest,” Gilmore said. “The survey and the initial email sent to respondents in advance of the survey call for speculation that clearly encourages only those who believe an issue exists to take the survey.”
DCF came under fire after reports it discriminated against same-sex couples who wanted to foster or adopt children. It has denied it discriminates against same-sex couples, but Gilmore has expressed a preference for heterosexual, two-parent families. In her written response, she said DCF and the contractors that run foster care do not have policies related to same-sex couples or non-tradition families.
Despite the mixed survey results, DCF’s new acting secretary, Gina Meier-Hummel, expressed concern about reports of discrimination in written testimony to a committee overseeing audits.
“Although the survey results in answering the first two questions could be interpreted by some as confirming there was no culture of discrimination by the Kansas Department for Children and Families in this area, any responses in the audit that suggest the possibility otherwise are of personal concern to me as acting secretary,” Meier-Hummel said.
Meier-Hummel, who has to be confirmed by the Kansas Senate to become secretary, said she would ensure DCF did not discriminate against same-sex couples.
“I understand that former leadership was supportive of Kansas law and the Constitution regarding same-sex marriage,” Hummel said. “That being said, I want the committee to know that I recognize the law changed in June 2015. Moving forward, I will have zero tolerance for any violations of the law.”
Auditors were not able to garner a representative sample in their survey, but about 37 percent of those surveyed were aware of a child who was moved from or denied a placement in an LGBT home. Fewer than 25 percent thought same-sex would-be parents were treated differently from heterosexual couples, but many expressed no opinion.
According to the report, eight separate guardians at litem served children who were removed from or denied a placement in a home with same-sex parents.
Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said he was not surprised to see that.
“We’re hoping that will convince the state government that a complete audit on this issue needs to be conducted,” Witt said.
In the report, auditors said the results could not be taken as a sample of all guardians ad litem because of the low response rate.
“Second, the survey is limited to only one stakeholder group,” the audit says. “Other stakeholders, such as case workers, foster parents and judges, may have significantly different opinions than guardians ad litem.”