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Kansas Panel Wants Study Of Family Structure In Foster Care

A foster family's structure should be an important factor when Kansas places abused and neglected children in temporary homes, a legislative panel said Monday in a recommendation that one lawmaker said would encourage discrimination against gays and lesbians.

A House-Senate committee studying foster care issues wrapped up its work just minutes before lawmakers opened their annual session.

The foster care study approved a recommendation that the Department for Children and Families use "evidence-based" factors in placing foster children.

Conservative Republicans who oppose same-sex marriage backed the study committee's recommendation.

"The underlying motive of that was to give DCF a green light to continue to discriminate against same-sex couples," said Democratic Sen. Laura Kelly, of Topeka.

Gays and lesbians in Kansas can serve as foster parents and adopt children. But multiple same-sex couples have alleged that the agency discriminates against gays and lesbians who seek to adopt the foster children in their care.

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican, said the goal is to tie placement decisions to academic studies showing what family structures benefit children the most.

"It would help us make decisions that would be in the best interests of the child," she said.

Opponents of gay marriage argue that some academic studies show that a parent of each gender is best for children but supporters of gay marriage say far more studies show there's no advantage.

DCF officials also have said they're focused on each child's best interest, though Secretary Phyllis Gilmore told The Associated Press in December, "I still say that the preferred (situation) is every child to have a mom and a dad, if possible, but it's not always possible."