Child placement agencies became free from lawsuits that could potentially shut them down after SB 284 was passed last year.
Since the vote and Gov. Jeff Colyer’s approval of the bill, the Adoption Protection Act was created which amends the Kansas Adoption and Relinquishment Act. The act says "no child placement agency (CPA), as defined by the bill, shall be required to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or otherwise participate in any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement of such child violates such CPA’s sincerely held religious beliefs." This allows religious adoption agencies to practice their beliefs freely without fear.
Austin K. Vincent, who sat on the Committee of Financial Institutions and Insurance in 2018, says many adoption agencies in other states have had to shut down, including faith-based organizations in Texas. The National Review says due to the threat of a lawsuit, many adoption agencies that practice religious beliefs in their everyday workplace, shut their doors to the public afraid they wouldn't be able to pay for litigation of the lawsuit or get the government to step in and allow them to run their organizations from a religious standpoint. This includes the Catholic Charities of Buffalo, New York, which closed their doors when their policy of only allowing children to be placed with heterosexual couples caused controversy with New York officials. A non-traditional couple sought out the company to adopt a child but was denied, and the state stepped in to say they can't do that.
Vincent says although Kansas has not had many problems with trying to keep adoption agencies safe to practice their religious beliefs, the cultural climate of agencies across the country prompted this amendment to the bill late in the session. “The adoption protection act changes nothing but prevents administrator or private lawsuits from challenging adoption agencies,” he said. Although he says there needs to be a few minor touch-ups to the bill that was passed into law last year, it has been very effective and a great preventative measure as no adoption agencies have closed since.
In 2017 alone, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 690,000 children were in the foster care system waiting to be placed with a permanent family. This means the demand to place children into safe and permanent homes outweigh the number of organizations trying to accomplish this goal. Steffany Aye from Adoption and Beyond in Overland Park says it’s important for as many adoption agencies as possible to stay open but the bill “has not affected us at all” in Kansas.
Vincent says the bill was mostly a preventative measure to keep adoption agencies in business with little interference from the government to how they are run. He says the government has challenged agencies in other states and there has been a refusal to compromise. The fact of the matter is that these adoption agencies are vital to helping put misplaced children into caring, supportive homes and with the new law they are able to operate more freely.
Samantha Gilstrap is a University of Kansas senior from Charlotte, North Carolina, majoring in journalism