As this year’s session draws to a close, Kansas legislators are considering an update to the state’s child welfare laws with a Senate amendment that sanctions discrimination in foster care and adoption. People For the American Way’s African American Ministers In Action – Equal Justice Task Force is among the faith leaders and organizations in Kansas and across the country urging the rejection of this harmful new language. We want to ensure that government-funded child welfare agencies act in the best interests of the children they agree to serve, and we oppose wasting taxpayer dollars on discrimination. The religious freedom at the core of our faith doesn’t give anyone the right to put children in harm’s way. You can download our letter here.
We, the undersigned faith leaders and organizations, write with great concern about SB 284 (formerly HB 2481) as amended by the Senate. We write to ask that you vote against SB 284 unless the Senate’s harmful amendment is stripped–which the report out of conference does not do.
If passed as amended, SB 284 would permit child welfare agencies that receive taxpayer dollars and participate in government-supported child welfare services to discriminate against children and prospective parents. As such, the bill would allow these agencies to ignore the best interests of the children they agree to serve. We oppose the use of taxpayer dollars to subsidize discrimination and reject the idea that government-funded child welfare agencies should enjoy a blanket exemption from professional standards and practices that emphasize that every placement must, first and foremost, be made with the best interest of the child in mind.
Permitting taxpayer dollars to subsidize discriminatory practices such as this will hurt children in need of loving and supportive homes. There are more than 7,200 children in the Kansas foster care system, approximately 2,400 of whom are eligible for adoption. In 2015, nearly 355 Kansas youth “aged out” of the foster care system, leaving them at a higher risk for poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and early parenthood than youth adopted while in foster care. This bill will make it harder for the children of the Kansas foster care system to find their forever home.
As people of faith and faith-based organizations, we celebrate the important work of so many faith-based child welfare agencies that support foster youth. We are also deeply committed to religious freedom, but that freedom doesn’t give anyone the right to impose their beliefs on others, or to put children in harm’s way. To argue that religious freedom justifies the use of taxpayer dollars to discriminate against children and prospective parents is a distortion of such freedom, and a misunderstanding of civil rights law.
We are partners in the sacred work of those faith-based child welfare agencies seeking to unite children with forever families and share their calling to build a world of wholeness and compassion. Further, our values as Americans and as people of faith compel us to ensure that every child finds their forever home, and that every family that can provide a safe, supportive, and loving home for a child is matched with the child that will make their family whole.
Again, we urge you to reject the discriminatory language proffered by the Senate as well as by the conference committee. Please do not allow the harms added to SB 284 to become law.