Kansas’ foster care program is staggering from large caseloads and high turnover of workers. But a legislative committee this week wasted valuable time listening to discredited research about same-sex parenting.
State Sen. Forrest Knox, a Republican from Altoona and the committee chairman, saw fit to have Donald Paul Sullins testify by telephone. Sullins is affiliated with several groups that oppose same-sex marriage. He warned of a host of negative outcomes for children placed with same-sex couples.
But a Columbia Law School project reviewed 75 studies and found only four that claimed to have found negative effects on children. And those four, like Sullins’ research, sampled children who had experienced family breakups while with same-sex couples — which makes them a high-risk group from the start.
The committee did hear from an expert from the American Psychological Association, who discounted Sullins’ testimony.
But why get into this at all? A move to restrict qualified same-sex couples from taking in foster children would likely run into a costly legal challenge, which is the last thing cash-strapped Kansas needs right now. The state would be hard pressed even to pay for a preposterous idea that Knox floated, to offer cash incentives for heterosexual married couples who attend church regularly and meet other qualifications.
Lawmakers need to get busy addressing the increase in the state’s foster care caseload, which has ballooned by 18 percent over the last six years. More children now come into the system every month than leave it, according to an Associated Press report. This could indicate insufficient efforts to connect children with permanent families, either biological or adoptive.
People who work with abused and neglected children also worry about high turnover of caseworkers.
Fortunately, some lawmakers at the hearing seemed to recognize the urgency of correcting problems in Kansas’ foster care system, which is mostly operated by two private contractors. Sen. Julia Lynn, a Republican from Olathe, called for a thorough review of the contracts before they expire in 2017.
Plans by the Kansas Department for Children and Families to set a lower threshold for substantiating child abuse claims also need scrutiny.
The cutbacks caused by Kansas’ financial problems are leaving families and children vulnerable. Placing children with willing same-sex couples is the last thing lawmakers should be worried about.