Kansas Lawmaker Wants to Pay More to|Churchgoing, Home-Schooling Foster Parents

     TOPEKA (CN) – A Kansas lawmaker introduced a bill this week that would pay foster parents “substantially” more public money if they are a churchgoing “husband and wife team” who do not smoke or drink, do not send the child to public schools, and one of whom stays at home.
     State Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, who introduced Senate Bill 158 on Tuesday, wants to promote foster parents who are like a “Leave it to Beaver” family, The Associated Press reported.
     Senate Bill 158 creates a “special category” known as licensed CARE families, who would receive “substantially higher” pay from the state than foster families deemed unacceptable to the CARE program.
     These are among the criteria for a CARE family, according to the language of SB 158:
     “A husband and wife team married for at least seven years, in a faithful, loving and caring relationship and with no sexual relations outside of the marriage;
     “no current use of tobacco by anyone in the family’s home;
     “no alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverages in the family’s home;
     “either the husband or wife, or both, does not work outside the home;” and
     “the family is involved in a social group larger than the family that meets regularly, preferably at least weekly.
     The Associated Press reported that Knox “cited the 1950s sitcom ‘Leave it to Beaver’ as an example of the types of families that would be part of the program.”
     CARE families also would be paid more if they home-school the child or send him or her to a private school.
     The estimated annual cost of the program would be $26 million, according to the Topeka Capital Journal.
     Some foster care groups, and the ACLU of Kansas, have problems with the bill, and doubt whether it is constitutional.
     “We have several major concerns with this bill,” said Micah Kubic, executive director of ACLU of Kansas. He cited privacy qualms about required background checks and the bill’s stipulations on what kind of lifestyle foster parents should lead.
     The bill “tries to promote one particular view of what a family should look like and tries to prioritize that,” Kubic said. Its constitutionality could be questioned, “particularly as the same-sex issue winds its way through the courts,” he said.
     The U.S. Supreme Court in November 2014 lifted a hold on same-sex marriages in Kansas, but whether to license gay marriages is still handled separately by each judicial district. Currently, 61 counties in Kansas issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to Equality Kansas.
     “Once the Supreme Court likely rules in favor of marriage equality, there will likely be portions of the bill, particularly the husband-and-wife portion, that are unconstitutional,” said Thomas Witt, executive director of Wichita-based Equality Kansas.
     The bill’s definition of what makes a superior foster parent is troubling to some who place children in foster homes.
     The bill’s selective criteria for CARE foster parents are “not at all what we use,” said Erin Teeter, director of foster care for Wichita Children’s Home.
     “The bill is based on the nuclear family. We have several single people, and we also have same-sex couples that are fantastic fosters,” Teeter told Courthouse News.
     One of Teeter’s foster parents, who worked with children for 20 years, would be ruled out for the CARE program under the bill. Yet, “there is no better foster parent,” Teeter said of the retired widow. “Using the nuclear family as a model is not a good criterion. I would lose some of my foster families under this bill.”
     Knox and his family operate a ranch of cattle and goat herds in Altoona, a rural town of about 400 people. Knox and his wife have fostered several children.
     Knox says on his website that he upholds “traditional American values” by “defeating the attacks on traditional marriage” and “opposing efforts to restrict your gun rights.” He is one of the Legislature’s strongest advocates for expanding the right to carry concealed weapons.
     During discussion of S.B. 158 in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, when one committee member inquired whether Knox would consider amending the bill to include a prohibition on firearms in CARE foster homes, Knox said that there was “no need to move beyond current law mandating guns be secured in homes where foster children resided,” according to the Topeka-Capital Journal.
     Knox did not return calls from Courthouse News.

%d bloggers like this: