Top Kansas welfare official rejects criticism agency discriminates against gay couples

Kansas Department for Children and Families head Phyllis Gilmore tells a Special Committee at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan., that she's trying to recruit more foster parents and wants children to be able to choose where to go. Some gay rights activists are raising alarms that the state agency discriminates against gay and lesbian foster parents who want to adopt troubled children.

Kansas Department for Children and Families head Phyllis Gilmore tells a Special Committee at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan., that she's trying to recruit more foster parents and wants children to be able to choose where to go. Some gay rights activists are raising alarms that the state agency discriminates against gay and lesbian foster parents who want to adopt troubled children. Chris Neal, The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP

Kansas Department for Children and Families head Phyllis Gilmore tells a Special Committee at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan., that she's trying to recruit more foster parents and wants children to be able to choose where to go. Some gay rights activists are raising alarms that the state agency discriminates against gay and lesbian foster parents who want to adopt troubled children. Chris Neal, The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP

Kansas Department for Children and Families head Phyllis Gilmore tells a Special Committee at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan., that she’s trying to recruit more foster parents and wants children to be able to choose where to go. Some gay rights activists are raising alarms that the state agency discriminates against gay and lesbian foster parents who want to adopt troubled children.

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas’ top child welfare official says allegations that she attempts to block potential adoptions by same-sex couples are “fiction” and decisions about troubled children are driven by a desire to find the best homes for them, not anti-gay bias.

Six months after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the nation, the Kansas Department for Children and Families faces criticism that it discriminates against gay and lesbian foster parents who want to adopt the troubled children in their care. A gay-rights advocate and Democratic legislator have said Secretary Phyllis Gilmore should resign.

But in her first extensive interview on the subject this week, Gilmore told The Associated Press that the department and its two foster care contractors are required by state and federal law to keep children with relatives and their siblings as much as possible. She said their decisions are focused on what’s in the best interest of each child.

“We’re talking about trying to get children into the best homes we can,” she said. “Could that sometimes be a homosexual home? Of course, but I still say that the preferred (situation) is every child to have a mom and a dad, if possible, but it’s not always possible.”

That statement referred to a preference for so-called traditional families headed by straight, married couples. But she said that this would not exclude a child being placed with a gay or lesbian relative or with a same-sex couple.
Gilmore said she is only occasionally briefed on adoption cases — and her only involvement is to pass questions on to regional DCF offices for further inquiries. She said she never gets involved in placements of abused and neglected children in foster homes.

Before the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Kansas banned same-sex marriage and wouldn’t recognize those from other states. Gays and lesbians have long been able to serve as foster parents and adopt children in state custody as individuals, however.

Allegations of bias arose after a Topeka City Council member and his wife were charged last month with child abuse and child endangerment. They were serving at the time as foster parents and have both biological and adopted children.

They were allowed last year to adopt a young girl who’d previously been foster-parented by a lesbian couple in Wichita who also wanted to adopt her, according to news reports.

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