Survey asks child advocates about Kansas foster care system’s treatment of gay couples
Topeka — Less than a quarter of the court-appointed advocates for abused and neglected children surveyed by state auditors said prospective same-sex parents are treated differently from heterosexual couples in the state’s foster care system.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the former head of the state Department for Children and Families said in a response that the survey fails to support allegations of LGBT bias. But the leader of the state’s most prominent LGBT group said it hopes the report persuades lawmakers to order a more thorough audit of the foster care system.
The audit released earlier this month was a response to multiple allegations of discrimination in which lesbian couples said they weren’t allowed to adopt foster children in their care. The auditors surveyed guardians ad litem, people who are appointed by judges to determine what’s in a child’s best interest.
About 37 percent of those who responded to the question said they were aware of an instance within the past five years of a child who was moved from or denied a placement in an LGBT home. Eight guardians ad litem said they had served such children.
“We’re hoping that will convince the state government that a complete audit on this issue needs to be conducted,” said Tom Witt, executive director of the LGBT group Equality Kansas.
The auditors declined to make recommendations based on the data and noted that they didn’t survey judges, foster parents or foster care caseworkers. Also, the auditors sent surveys to 484 guardians ad litem, and 163 responded, for a total response rate of 34 percent.
In addition, 140 answered the question about whether they knew of an instance in which a child was moved from or denied placement in an LGBT home.
On the question about bias toward LGBT couples, 139 responded, and 58 of them — or 42 percent — had no opinion, while 48 — or 34 percent — didn’t think LGBT couples were treated differently. Thirty-three, or almost 24 percent, said they thought LGBT couples were treated differently.
Former DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore, who retired Dec. 1 and repeatedly denied allegations of anti-LGBT bias, said in a written response to the audit that she hopes the survey responses “put this issue to rest.”
She added: “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.”
But Gilmore’s successor, acting DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel, said in her own written response to the legislative committee overseeing the auditors’ work that any survey responses suggesting the possibility of anti-LGBT bias “are of personal concern to me.”