The child welfare agency in Kansas wants foster parents to affirm the gender identities of transgender children. But the move could significantly decrease the number of available families in a state with a record-high number of foster children.
Under the direction of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) distributed a document to child-placing agencies ahead of a regularly scheduled meeting on July 15. The informal three-page paper defined a handful of controversial terms, including gender expression, gender identity, and transgender. It said all youth should be recognized by their preferred gender identity, allowed to express their gender identity in personal grooming and clothing, and placed in homes that do not impose traditional gender roles on them. Anything other than embracing a child’s gender identity threatens their physical and emotional well-being, DCF said.
Within days of the document’s release, state legislators and pro-family advocates denounced DCF’s direction as a backhanded effort to impose progressive LGBT ideology on Kansas child-placing agencies. The DCF document also could be an attempt to circumvent a law passed by the Republican-led legislature last year that protects state adoption agencies from having to place children in homes that violate the group’s religious beliefs. Within days of winning the state gubernatorial election last November, Kelly said she and her staff would avoid enforcing that law.
DCF has defended the guidance document in recent weeks, saying it was simply a response to questions from agencies about how foster parents can better support transgender youth.
“The fact of wanting children we’re caring for to feel safe and welcome in their foster homes just shouldn’t be a controversial issue to anybody,” said Laura Howard, the top administrator at DCF.
But critics contend the document reads like a policy filled with imperative sentences. DCF presented it as an “update and review” of “transgendered placement positions/policies” at the July 15 meeting.
“When a government agency releases a document of this nature, or any sort of guidance document, it is a policy,” said Brittany Jones, director of advocacy for the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas. “That’s the force of government.”
DCF and child-placing agencies allow foster and adoptive parents discretion about what kinds of needs they are willing to serve. Some advocates worry that DCF will require placing agencies to keep a child’s biological sex confidential from potential foster families. The initial version of the document included a question-and-answer section that recommended parents place transgender children in bedrooms with children of the opposite biological sex.
Jones said the document signals to families who “hold a Biblical worldview or even a historic Judeo-Christian worldview of family and sex and gender that they are not welcome to be foster families in Kansas.” She has talked to Christian families in the last few weeks who want to care for vulnerable children as foster parents but are terrified the government will tell them what they can and cannot believe and say.
“There is nothing so stubborn as a fact,” said Chuck Weber, the executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference. “Humans are born into this world with an indisputable biological reality—we are male or female. Now government, through the force of law, is trying to impose a new and dangerous ‘normal’ for human sexuality.”
The state legislature in California is also considering a bill that would add similar restrictions for foster parents working with transgender children. The measure would require foster parents to refer to youth by their preferred names and gender pronouns and allow them to wear clothing, groom themselves, and attend clubs and parades consistent with their gender identity. The measure passed in the state Assembly and is scheduled for a Senate committee hearing later this month.