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Foster parent bias 

State’s partner in recruitment turns away gays.

A woman certified by the state to do respite foster care has gotten no placements since she declined to sign a pledge that she wasn't homosexual.

Jeanette Krohn worked with Children of Arkansas Loved for a Lifetime, a faith-based non-profit that partners with the state to expedite certification for foster care in Pulaski County. 

A CALL mailing in March asked all its certified and prospective foster families (which includes single parents, like Krohn) to affirm that they weren't homosexual or cohabiting with an unmarried partner, and that they believed in the Apostle's Creed.

In a letter to CALL director Mary Carol Pedersen, Krohn said she was neither cohabiting nor homosexual, but took issue with the non-profit's anti-gay bias. She informed CALL that she would work directly with the Division of Children and Family Services. She copied the letter to state foster parent recruitment manager Alicen Bennett.

Since then, Krohn has had no placements.

Julie Munsell, spokesperson for the Department of Human Services, which oversees DCFS, said she was looking into why Krohn was apparently dropped from foster care rolls. She said she was unsure if CALL handles all respite foster care (weekend or hourly relief for full-time foster parents) placements. Munsell noted that the state does not contract with CALL and said its affiliation does not indicate a tacit approval of CALL beliefs.

But to the average observer, the state's relationship with CALL seems formal. The state's foster care program encourages people interested in fostering to go through CALL through a link on its website. CALL speeds up the certification process by offering frequent weekend training sessions (another state contractor requires a once-a-week, 10-week commitment) and its use of volunteer social workers to do the required home studies. It can do in weeks what would take several months through the state.

Recruitment manager Bennett said she was surprised no one had called Krohn. “She should have been referred to a resource worker” once she was no longer getting placements through CALL, Bennett said.

At any given time, there are between 500 to 800 children needing placement in foster homes, Bennett said. In Pulaski County, 1,100 children were placed with families.

Mary Carol Pederson, director of CALL, said the non-profit tries “to keep as close to DCFS policy as possible,” though she acknowledges that state policy does not address the sexual orientation of single foster parents. 

In fact, the state policy does not address sexual orientation because of a successful ACLU lawsuit that in 2004 struck down a state rule that prohibited foster children from being placed in a home with a gay person.

Four years later and through its partner, CALL, the state is now effectively tacitly approving that very policy.

If CALL were the only recruitment tool the state used, DHS would not work with it, Munsell said. Because there are several routes to certification, she said she didn't believe the state was doing an end-run around its own prohibition against discrimination. Munsell said the agency would work with a recruitment group that excluded heterosexuals, if one existed.

Would the state partner with a foster parent recruitment group that excluded African-Americans? Munsell couldn't answer.

Gov. Mike Beebe's office was asked for a comment on the DHS association with a discriminatory placement agency but did not respond.

CALL is working with 135 families (that number includes single parents) in Pulaski County, 60 of whom have been certified by the state.

Munsell said the department is open to working with any group that recruits foster parents, but none but CALL (with the exception of the courts) is doing the work.

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