The Department for Children and Families on Wednesday called a legislative proposal to audit the agency for possible discrimination against gays and lesbians inflammatory and said it infers homosexuals have special rights.
Deputy DCF secretary Jeff Kahrs told the Legislative Post Audit Committee a request to examine the agency’s policies and practices toward same-sex foster couples was accusatory and biased.
Serving as a foster parent is a privilege, not a right, Kahrs said.
The committee set aside a request for an audit of whether the agency discriminates until possibly April after squabbling among legislators. But the panel did approve other foster care-related audit topics, such as examining the safety of children in foster care and evaluating the success of Kansas’ privatized foster care system.
Kahrs said the agency welcomed examinations of privatization and child safety. But he made DCF’s displeasure with the discrimination question known.
“We strongly object to the accusatory, inflammatory and overall biased language as proposed in the same-sex audit,” Kahrs said.
“This audit language infers homosexuals and lesbians should have special rights,” he said. “Specifically, it wants to review all cases where a same-sex couple or a homosexual or lesbian were denied placement, not due to their sexual orientation specifically per se, but for any reason.”
The agency has a long list of reasons unrelated to sexual orientation for why placements may be denied in accordance with federal and state policy, Kahrs said.
“However the inference in this audit is clear: a person’s sexual orientation trumps the best interest of the child analysis and the interest of the homosexual and lesbian foster parent is paramount to that of the child,” Kahrs said. “Some people would call that special rights.”
Kahrs said the audit presupposed an anti-homosexual culture exists within DCF and used leading questions to create a desired result. Auditors would use legislators and the “liberal media” to help identify potential cases of discrimination, Kahrs said, adding they have an anti-DCF agenda.
The audit language, he said, turns the focus to the adults in the foster care system and away from the children. The only question regarding child placement the state should worry about is whether the placement is in the best interest of the child, Kahrs said.
The decision not to examine the agency’s practices and policies toward same-sex foster parents left Democrats and others angry and stunned. Tom Witt, director of Equality Kansas, said the public deserves an investigation, not a whitewash.
Witt called the committee choice outrageous and a cover-up. The tabling of the request to audit agency practices toward same-sex couples came after a request from Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, for a similar audit wasn’t approved in December.
“It’s offensive and inflammatory to be discriminatory,” Ward said. “And if you aren’t discriminating you should welcome those auditors, you should welcome the investigation, you should spend your time and energy presenting the facts that support your claim.
“The problem is the facts don’t match what (Kahrs) just said. There is discrimination going on in DCF regarding same-sex couples,” Ward said.
Attention on DCF intensified after The Topeka Capital-Journal and other media reported a 2013 court ruling from Johnson County District Judge Kathleen Sloan found the agency had gone to extraordinary measures to create a case against a lesbian woman who wanted to adopt the foster child she had cared for since birth. A number of same-sex couples also have shared allegations of discriminatory treatment.
The arrest and charging of Topeka City Councilman Jonathan Schumm with child abuse last year raised questions about the regulation of foster homes. The Schumms have 17 children. The Schumms were involved in a dispute with a Wichita lesbian couple over the adoption of a child. The dispute came to light after the arrest.
On Monday, the Special Committee on Foster Care Adequacy endorsed DCF considering “family structures” in child placements. Kahrs, referencing the recommendation, said the Legislature appears to be double-minded on the issue of family structure.
In December, DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore told The Associated Press allegations she attempts to block potential adoptions by same-sex couples are “fiction” and decisions about troubled children are driven by a desire to find the best homes for them, not anti-gay bias.
But she still acknowledged a preference to place children with traditional male-female families.
“We’re talking about trying to get children into the best homes we can,” Gilmore said. “Could that sometimes be a homosexual home? Of course, but I still say that the preferred (situation) is every child to have a mom and a dad, if possible, but it’s not always possible.”
Sen. Jeff Longbine, R-Emporia, said that if DCF has formal policies and practices regarding same-sex foster couples it should provide them before April, when the Legislative Post Audit Committee could consider the topic again.
“Why don’t they provide them to the Legislature,” Longbine said, “provide them to the media and save us the time in April from doing another audit?”