by Max Brantley
Arkansas Families First, formed to oppose Initiated Act 1, and Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families held a press conference this morning to publicize a hearing tomorrow at the Department of Human Services to contest the DHS policy banning “cohabitating adults” from becoming foster parents. The groups claim that the policy was never open for public comment, and has been invalidated by a 2006 Supreme Court ruling which declared a slightly different rule explicitly banning gay foster parents unconstitutional.
Ed Ochoa, speaking on behalf of the Arkansas Chapter of the American Society of Pediatrics, said a blanket rule that would take qualified parents out of the foster care system, without scientific evidence to back it up, is wrong for children who need stable, loving homes.
The rule has no effect on the proposed Initiated Act 1 to prohibit foster parenting or adoption in homes with unmarried couples, but Arkansas Advocates said opposition to a similar rule at the hearing tomorrow would serve to educate the public about dangers of the policy. Opponents say it will limit the options judges have for finding homes for children in need.
Jerry Cox, president of the Family Counsel Action Committee, was on hand and said there were studies that prove children are served better by homes with a married couple, although he did not cite any specific examples. A home is better than no home at all, we'd bet studies show, too.
The hearing will be from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday in conference rooms A and B at 700 Main St. Doctors child welfare experts, former foster children and parents are prepared to speak.
-- Gerard Matthews
PS -- Perhaps somebody will bring up the shocking news -- reported here in this week's Arkansas Times -- that DHS and Gov. Mike Beebe have approved a state partnership with a private religious agency that makes the signing of a sexual loyalty oath a condition of participating in the private agency's foster parent program. To participate, a person must sign a pledge that they are not homosexual and not engaging in a sexual relationship with another person, gay or straight. DHS and the governor's office have defended the partnership with the agency -- touted on the DHS website -- because it helps find foster parents. But a woman who refused to sign the agency's pledge was not allowed to become a foster parent despite asking the state directly.
Would the state partner with and advertise an agency that, while otherwise doing good deeds, refused to let blacks participate? It would not. This is no different. The state has effectively outsourced some of its foster parent recruiting to an agency that bars gay people, gay sympathizers or people who simply believe their private lives are none of the state's business. By doing so, the state is sidestepping a Supreme Court ruling that it was unconstitutional for the state to do this very thing. It's an outrage. It's more outrageous that Gov. Beebe knows it and defends the state's knowing promotion of discrimination.