By MADELINE FOX
Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer signed into law a measure allowing faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to get state reimbursement for placement services — even if they turn away prospective parents on religious grounds.
Colyer and the head of Kansas’ child welfare agency, Department for Children and Families Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel, have said they want to keep Kansas open to as many adoption agencies as possible as the state grapples with a record number of kids in foster care. As of April, there were 2,540 Kansas children in DCF custody up for adoption.
“It is imperative that we have policies and law that encourages more child placement agencies, not less,” said Colyer, flanked by conservative Republican lawmakers for the bill signing Friday at Youth Horizons Kinloch Price Boys Ranch in Valley Center.
Opponents of the measure object to taxpayer dollars going to agencies that won’t serve all Kansas families, calling it state-sponsored discrimination.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Barnett, who sent out a statement immediately after the bill was signed, said it could lead to fewer adoptions of Kansas kids, as single parents and same-sex couples are turned away.
Kansas Democrats also chimed in, taking aim at Colyer and independent state Sen. John Doll, who is gubernatorial candidate Greg Orman’s running mate, for supporting the measure.
The Legislature only narrowly passed the adoption bill earlier this month, with debate over the religious protections going into the wee hours, and the issue could be pivotal in the upcoming campaigns for governor and the Kansas House.
The state’s major contractors still must serve all prospective foster parents and adoptive families referred to them, but their subcontractors do not.
A spokeswoman for St. Francis Community Services, one of the state’s two case management contractors, said of the 2,043 children it currently has placed with foster families, 288 were placed through faith-based subcontractors. The agency does not subcontract adoptions through any other child placement agency.
KVC, the state’s other case management contractor, wasn’t able to provide data by deadline.
Even before the law was signed, child placement agencies that refuse to place children with same-sex couples, single parents or non-Christians could get state reimbursement for adoptions they facilitate on behalf of a DCF contractor.
The new law, however, means that future administrations won’t be able to shut out subcontractors that factor their organizations’ religious views into choosing adoptive and foster parents.
Similar policies in other states have prompted legal pushback. The ACLU sued Michigan in 2017 over its practice of permitting state-contracted child placement agencies to reject qualified same-sex couples based on the agencies’ religious beliefs.