Sunday, March 1, 2015

Foster Families Foster God

Forrest Knox, republican senator of Kansas, proposed a newbill that will change the setup of some foster families.  Senate Bill 158 has standards that, if met, qualify foster families to be considered CARE families. The foster family must have heterosexual married guardians, nonsmokers and nondrinkers, and must attend some type of social gathering weekly. As well, if the couple decides to have other jobs, one parent must stay home while the other works. “The home will provide a comfortable, informal, stable and secure setting – a traditional home with a loving father and mother,” Knox said. Knox even admitted that he hopes to see those who go to church applying for this foster program. CARE families are different than regular foster families because CARE granted more control over their foster kid’s lives. They are granted permission to homeschool train them and be funded for this training by the government. According to the article, each homeschooled foster child would be granted roughly $3,838 that is intended to service their academic needs. However there are few regulations and limitations with this money. The money does not have to go towards a secular curriculum. The parents have the freedom to teach them however they please. This bill has other loop holes that are being challenged amongst senators, such as excluding biological parents from making decisions about the foster children.

The bill is undeniably controversial, especially with the standards set in place.  Some may argue this is a violation of separation of church and state because it promotes certain moral values upheld by Senator Knox. It discriminates homosexual couples from participating in this public program, for no other reason than a ‘stable and secure setting’ for the children. The requirement to attend a weekly social group larger than a family does not have any clear unconstitutional flaws. However, it is arguable that this standard advantages candidates who go to religious groups to be eligible for the CARE program more than others. The nonsmoking and nonalcoholic environment most definitely has benefits in keeping the foster kids safe. However, the intent behind these rules are questionable. If this is a public program for those in Kansas, it should have secular standards and secular reasoning behind these standards.
The education factor is another controversial portion of the bill. In class we have discusses several cases where the state is compelled to fund the education of religious schools in order to better the child and allow them the same educational opportunity through academic materials, field trips, and even teaching.  We have discovered that there is a narrow line between what is acceptable and unacceptable via standards like the Lemon Test in determining whether public funding for private schools is unconstitutional. With this bill, the choice of education for the child will not be the decided by the biological parent, but by foster guardians. With the requirement of “weekly social gathering attendance” the households of these families will very likely be religious. These values can become entangled in their homeschool curriculum. It would be impossible to regulate what and how the foster parents decide to teach their kids. Therefore funding these academics would be unconstitutional.
I think this bill shouldn’t be passed because of its several inconsistent standards. Public programs such as foster care, are supposed to provide a safe and positive environment for children who are parentless or come from abused backgrounds. The CARE families embody only one type of ‘betterment’ and I believe it is based from Knox’s moral views on a “healthy family”. Same sex marriage is illegal in Kansas but disqualifying their household from applying to this program, when they cannot be a ‘stable and married’ household by law makes no sense. They are considered unfit because they are not married, but they are prohibited by the law. Also, the money grant for homeschool education is debatable. I don’t think it is constitutional that the government needs to fund a public program to potentially sponsor religious education. These kids should be able to receive public education, being that it is a stable and monitored facility for their growth. I think this bill will and can lead to several slippery slopes. For example, I’m sure Knox did not intend for the families weekly meetings to be at nontraditional or radical religious groups. With 41% of Kansas being Christian or Catholic and 50% identifying as religious, it is quite clear who is advantaged in this bill. I think the foster care system should instead be improved to seek the betterment of the child, rather than implementing a new program that is biased to religious households.

6 comments:

Mackenzie Y said...

The fact that such a controversial bill is being introduced is interesting, yet not surprising. I agree with the author that this program for selecting foster parents definitely has a bias toward parents who attend religious groups. The healthy family being required to be heterosexual couple appears to present a problem with discrimination here as well. If the state if providing funds to the parents, it should unquestionably be required that this money be put toward a secular education. The government definitely should not sponsor a public program that may fund religious education.

Peter M said...

I think it is reasonable for the state to have certain qualifications that people need to have in order to be foster parents. We can argue what those qualifications should be put the state has a clear interest in making sure children are put in an environment where they have the opportunity to succeed. The only part of this bill that could violate the Establishment Clause is the requirement to attend a weekly social gathering. In order for the government to demand such an activity, there needs to be a clear secular purpose but based on Senator Knox's quote, the main purpose of that provision is to support Christianity.

Alex L. said...

There is no doubt, that as Peter says, the state has a compelling interest to have some sort of standards for foster parents. Nonetheless, the qualifications listed in this proposed bill clearly push towards very religious groups. In reality, in what way does attending a weekly social gathering have any impact on one's ability to be a parent? I believe this bill is advancing religion and for that reason it should be viewed as unconstitutional.

Nate McGuinness said...

I agree with the inclusion of standards, making sure the child is going to a healthy home, caring parents etc, but these seem to be fairly thinly veiled ways of saying a part of organizations that are traditional religious in nature, not that I think that adds or takes away from anything in the child rearing process, but it shouldn't be the primary aim of these standards and what's more with language like this present in the proposal establishment does becomes somewhat of an indirect potential possibility, it is, or would be, state funded after all.

robert bryson said...

I am honestly bewildered that this bill could even be considered. The requirements are discriminatory. The funding for school runs every risk of unconstitutionally violating the Establishment Clause. I am sure someone will present the "but its for the kids" argument. That's absurdly illogical. These requirements run every risk of being equally detrimental for the child as they do would help them. It has the potential to instill thoughts of homophobia, prejudice attitudes and other beliefs that are not in the states interest. Additionally, in the event that the child them self happened to be homosexual, there is a risk that with these strict standards for the parents that there is a likeliness that the Care family my not be accepting the the individual. Absolutely unbelievable that this would not cause more public outcry in the 21st century.

Ana M. said...

I do not agree that giving parent’s money to decide the education of their children is unconstitutional. Once the children are “safe and secure” in a home they become the responsibility of the parent just like any of their own children. Whether the parent wants to send their kids to public schools or not, is not up to the government. The government’s job is to ensure that parents are getting enough money to provide their children with a good education. As long as the child is meeting the state requirement of education, the government should not intervene. I do agree that this Bill seems to come from personal and societal beliefs instead of what is sensible and fair. Homes do not need heterosexual married guardians to provide comfortable, informal and a stable secure setting.