An audit of the Kansas foster care and adoption system is on its way, lawmakers decided Thursday, and is expected to include an investigation into allegations of discrimination against same-sex couples.
But approval of the audit won’t be up for a vote until January.
Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, said he believes the audit will show “an informal system of discrimination against same-sex couples” by the Kansas Department for Children and Families in the adoption process.
The legislative post audit committee put off authorizing the audit of DCF until its January meeting to give committee members and staff time to write a comprehensive scope for the audit.
Ward appeared before the post audit committee to ask for both a probe of same-sex discrimination allegations against DCF and a review of the department’s foster care processes.
Several Democrats on the post audit committee favored moving forward now with Ward’s requests, but Republicans said they wanted to include a broader review of the agency’s foster care practices.
“It’s very frustrating because they could have taken this first step today,” Ward said about the committee’s decision. “But we’ve made a step forward. We’re going to get to the bottom of this.”
Ward cited for the committee several instances of alleged discrimination, including a report that a heterosexual couple from Topeka facing child abuse charges was given custody of a child over a Wichita lesbian couple on DCF’s recommendation.
He also noted a sealed 2013 court ruling in which a judge wrote that DCF conducted a “witch hunt” looking for negative information about a lesbian couple seeking to adopt an infant.
Ward presented a letter from more than a dozen lawyers from Johnson County and Lawrence advocating a state audit, which they said would allow information to come to light that otherwise wouldn’t become public because of privacy laws.
Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican and committee chairman, said he was concerned about information presented by Ward that the number of children in foster care placement had increased by 1,081 in the past four years.
“There are a number of issues we want to look at,” Barker said.
Rep. Peggy Mast, an Emporia Republican, was one of the members appointed to help write the scope of the audit.
“It looks like a system that needs fixing, and we should do it in a comprehensive way,” she said.
Barker appointed a subcommittee of four members to work with the audit staff for an audit scope, including Ward’s requests, due Jan. 1. The committee will then consider approving the audit at its first January meeting.
DCF officials have said that they don’t show preference to heterosexual couples over gay and lesbian couples and that for confidentiality reasons they can’t comment on specific cases.
Gov. Sam Brownback earlier in the week said he favored a thorough review of the state’s foster care and adoption programs.
A Kansas legislative committee earlier heard testimony from a controversial researcher on same-sex couples: