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Kansas Adoption Update Snagged Over Which Parents Agencies Can Exclude

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Kansas News Service
The state's rewriting of adoption and foster care rules has been caught up in the politics of religion and same-sex parenting.

A bill to update state adoption law was sailing through the legislature. Until it wasn’t.

It’s been gummed up because of a faith-based protection provision that would allow adoption agencies to receive state funding while turning away prospective parents who don’t fit with an organization’s religious beliefs.

The underlying bill would clarify definitions such as the child’s place of residence and who counts as an interested party in an adoption. It would also expand some definitions. For example, “married adult couple” will replace “husband and wife” in explaining who can adopt a child.

Yet an amendment adds in religious exemptions for child placement agencies.

Those private agencies currently can choose not to serve some people, such as single parents or same-sex couples. The bill would protect that ability even if Kansas policies change. It also prohibits the state from denying those agencies state grants and contracts because of their religious objections.

“There’s a place for diversity in the realm of child-placing agencies,” said Rep. Susan Humphries, a sponsor of the bill. “That’s what we want to do, keep everyone here.”

Kansas’ current foster care contracts expire next year. The legislation exempts the two state contractors currently handling foster care and adoption placement. Those agencies can’t impose their faith in sorting out who can adopt children.

But opponents of the bill worry the new provisions could open up state contracts to organizations that wouldn’t be willing to serve some foster or adoptive parents based on a group’s objection to, for instance, same-sex or single parents.

“This is putting the religious beliefs of the child placement agency over the needs of the child,” said Rep. Jarrod Ousley, a Merriam Democrat who opposes the religious protection amendment.

The legislature didn’t have the votes to pass the religious exemption before it left for spring break. Rep. Susan Humphries, the Wichita Republican who has championed the faith-based exemption, said the language updates will happen no matter what.

“We’re committed to making sure the underlying bill passes,” she said.

Madeline Fox is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter @maddycfox. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

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