Archive for Thursday, January 14, 2016

Kansas Department for Children and Families won’t be audited for alleged anti-gay bias

January 14, 2016

TOPEKA — A legislative panel voted Tuesday not to conduct an audit of alleged anti-gay bias in the state’s foster care system after an official from the Department for Children and Families objected to such an audit.

But the joint Legislative Post Audit Committee did approve seven other audit topics focusing on DCF, including whether it is adequately protecting the safety of children in state custody and whether the state’s decision 20 years ago to privatize child welfare services has produced the results that were intended.

DCF Deputy Secretary Jeff Kahrs said the agency welcomed an examination of those other questions, but he strongly objected to an audit of alleged anti-gay bias in the placement of foster children, and he denied that there is “an anti-homosexual culture” at DCF.

“This audit language uses accusatory and inflammatory language,” Kahrs said. “It assumes a certain type of culture exists at DCF, and otherwise uses language that is both biased and partial against DCF.”

But then he went on to say, “Social science research, based on a large collection of studies over many years, shows that children do best when raised by a healthy mother and father who are committed to one another in marriage.”

“I might suggest that DCF just answered that question,” Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, said following Kahrs’ remarks.

Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, who is not a member of the committee, requested the audit in December after a Topeka couple with 16 children in their home were arrested and charged with child abuse and neglect.

One of those children, a 1-year-old, had recently been placed in that home after he was taken out of the home of a same-sex couple in Wichita who had cared for the child since he was only a few days old.

The Legislative Post Audit Committee tentatively agreed in December to conduct such an audit, pending agreement on final wording of a scope statement.

The committee met Wednesday to vote on that statement, but deadlocked in a 5-5 tie on whether to proceed.

But Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, said she saw no reason for the audit.

“I don’t think we need to ask the question of (whether) they are being allowed to do foster care or adoption. It’s already been proven that they are being allowed that,” she said. “But we’re focusing on a lifestyle choice.”

Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, who supported doing the audit, said he didn’t understand DCF’s objections to the audit.

“If we have people wanting to step forward and love and embrace and care for children, I don’t know why we stand in the way,” he said. “DCF has stated their reasons for not wanting this audit. I would clearly state that this is the opportunity to prove otherwise, to publicly prove otherwise that this isn’t occurring.”

When the panel voted, five members voted to proceed with the audit, and four voted against it. Then, in an unusual move, the committee chairman, Rep. John Barker, R-Salina, cast his vote against the audit, creating a 5-5 tie, which meant the motion failed.

Typically, committee chairmen will often vote to break a tie. But it is rare that they cast a vote to create a tie and thereby kill a motion.

“Usually, it’s a good sign that bad things are happening,” Ward said.

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, a statewide gay rights advocacy group, issued a statement condemning the committee’s action.

“Today’s agreement by radical-right ideologues to help cover up DCF’s repugnant discriminatory practices is an outrage,” he said. “The State of Kansas is snatching children from gay and lesbian households and placing them with families that don’t want them, or worse, placing them with alleged abusers in crowded, unsafe conditions. This deserves a full public investigation, not a whitewash.”

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