Audits of state agencies can happen randomly, although more often they result after a request has been made in response to specific problems.

The Kansas Department for Children and Families is about to undergo one of the latter types, as any number of issues with its foster care program have arisen that require explanation.

The Legislative Post Audit Committee has been directed to examine how safe children are when placed in Kansas foster care homes and how effective and successful the program is after the state’s decision to privatize the system. Absent, or at least delayed, is an audit on whether the program discriminates against actual or hopeful foster parents who are not involved in a heterosexual marriage.

A special request had been made regarding the discrimination charges in the fall, but lawmakers rejected it at the time saying it was too narrow a concern. This week, rather than demanding a comprehensive review of the foster-care program, it stripped out that narrow request.

DCF Deputy Secretary Jeff Kahrs said “the agency welcomed examinations of privatization and child safety,” according to a Tribune News Service report. However, “we strongly object to the accusatory, inflammatory and overall biased language as proposed in the same-sex audit,” he said. “This audit language infers homosexuals and lesbians should have special rights.”

No, it doesn’t. The inference should be that homosexuals and lesbians have the same rights as heterosexuals. All the audit request was attempting to discover was whether the agency allowed discriminatory placements based on the parents’ sexual preference.

Attempts to deflect attention away from that alleged practice were successful by agreeing not to audit that subject matter until at least April. And homophobic legislators took it a step further Monday when the Special Committee on Foster Care Adequacy instructed DCF to research family structure. The panel wants a “peer-reviewed, evidence-based factors regarding family structure be considered a high priority” in foster care placements.

As the committee’s chair, Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, did not specifically state what he was looking for, he has given hints in the past.

Last year, Knox invited Donald Paul Sullins, a controversial sociologist and Catholic priest whose research has been challenged by the American Psychological Association and most all other research groups, to tell lawmakers about the emotional problems children suffer after being raised by same-sex couples.

Sullins testified behavioral issues and being sexually abused were but two of the negative outcomes potential from such a foster home.

“Even if you compare same-sex parents to the most transient, the most problem-prone form of opposite-sex marriage, there is still a difference,” Sullins said.

Knox has agreed readily, claiming research that shows “a traditional home with a father and a mother and a committed long-term marriage is the best for meeting the needs of kids.”

“It’s like, duh,” Knox said last year. “This is extremely controversial politically, but in terms of meeting needs from kids it’s pretty straightforward.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. But the truth, we suspect, is what Knox and others are attempting to avoid by delaying that aspect of an overall DCF audit. Otherwise, it makes little sense to exclude this subject from review.

Particularly when DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore, who denies the agency has an anti-gay bias, has said: “We’re talking about trying to get children into the best homes we can. 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.”

Such preferences, of course, tend to guide decision-making by subordinates. Lawmakers are not avoiding some sort of debate about political correctness; they’re delaying a public reckoning of whether DCF actively discriminates based on sexual orientation.

plowry@dailynews.net

Editorial by Patrick Lowry