Views from Kansas: Tolerance in foster homes

Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.

The Kansas Department for Children and Families’ recent suggested guidance about how child placement agencies handle LGBTQ youths in their care strikes us as good sense, despite grousing from some self-righteous conservative groups. DCF wants these children to be placed with foster parents or homes that affirm their identities.

What does that mean? Simply put, if a gay teenager is in foster care, his or her family won’t discipline that teen for being gay or attempt to “convert” him or her to being straight. If transgender teens are in foster care, their families will respect their current gender.

Being a teenager is tough enough. LGBTQ teens face bigger challenges than their straight peers, given pervasive bullying and discrimination. The last thing they need are foster families determined to undermine their identities. Nothing could be more troubling or disturbing to young people trying to move through a challenging world than having their very being questioned by those chosen by the state to care for them.

This should be common sense. Experts affirm the obvious, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Sherman Smith.

“Adolescence is such a huge time when kids are developing their sexual identity, their gender identity,” Pam Cornwell, a family therapist with St. Francis Ministries, told Smith. “When they don’t have the support of their family, they’re in the foster care system, it makes it much more difficult for them to find they kind of support they need to get through this very challenging developmental period.”

But the Family Policy Alliance, a conservative advocacy group, claimed the DCF guidance was part of an “invasive sexual agenda” that could limit homes for children.

We think this is overwrought. The vast majority of foster parents understand the difficulty of the teen years. We trust that these families want to support the youths in their care, whatever their sexual orientation or gender expression.

If there are families that legitimately would not take part because they might have to care for an LGBTQ teen, they might want to consider their place in the program. In this changing world, respect and tolerance should be taken as given. You don’t have to agree (whatever that means) with a teen’s sexual orientation or gender expression to support them as people or respect their basic humanity. You don’t have to ignore destructive or harmful activity.

But gay and transgender folks are part of the world today. They will be part of the world tomorrow. And all of the huffing and puffing in the world won’t change that.

— Originally published in The Topeka Capital-Journal

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