Leader Blues

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

WED 7-5-6 EDITORIAL >> Loving homes for foster kids

If you looked at the evidence and the law and not the politics, you could not have been shocked at the unanimous decision of the Arkansas Supreme Court striking down a regulation of the state Department of Human Services that since 1999 has prevented gay or lesbian households from being foster parents.

The court, which included two justices appointed by Gov. Huckabee, said the evidence was overwhelming that the health and safety of neglected and abandoned children were not compromised by gay or lesbian foster parents, who according to all the reputable studies made just as caring and supportive parents as others. The Department of Human Services acknowledged that it had no negative reports on gay and lesbian foster parents before the ban started in 1999 and it produced none from outside Arkansas.

Other states do not have such bans, although Florida prohibits gay and lesbian adoptions.

Arkansas has a great shortage of foster parents and some history of abuse by them. It now warehouses hundreds of children in group homes like the Lordís Ranch in Randolph County, which was rendered notorious once again last month when the owner was caught flying Gov. Huckabee to political events around the country.

It had won fat contracts with the Huckabee administration for housing children. It was in trouble with the state in the early í90s for its treatment of children.

The state started the ban in 1999, when the governorís appointees to the Child Care Review Board decided that gay foster parents violated what one member viewed as a Biblical injunction against homosexuals. A Pulaski chancellor who heard the testimony and then the Supreme Court concluded that had nothing to do with a childís health and safety, which was all that state law allowed the department to regulate. If it wants to legislate one view of morality and apply it to foster parents, the legislature will have to pass a law to do that.

Seeing a hot-button political opportunity, all the big-time politicians running this year plus Gov. Huckabee immediately vowed to do just that next year when the legislature meets in special session again.

But they should first do what they say they want: Consider not what is the ideal home for these neglected children, but what is the best that can be done for the very few who will get the opportunity to be reared for a while in the home of people, regardless of sexual orientation, who will have their interests at heart and not a government check.