At Last: Foster Moms Triumphs Over Anti-Gay Foster Care Ban in Missouri

Lisa Johnston

It would seem that Lisa Johnston would make an ideal foster mother. The forty year-old resident of Kansa City, Missouri holds a degree in Human Development and the Family from the University of Kansas with an emphasis on child development. She is also a Sunday school teacher and volunteer at her church. She successfully completed a home study, an interview, and all the other requirements of the state. Why then did the Missouri Department of Social Services deny her an application to become a foster parent three years ago?

Perhaps the state thought Johnston’s partner was unfit to parent a foster child. But her partner, who has an undergraduate degree in psychology, a master’s in counseling, and a divinity degree, is employed as a chaplain and a counselor for troubled teens.

“We were saddened when we found out that our loving each other was the only reason the state had for denying us the opportunity to give a child a home,” Johnston said in a statement issued by the American Civil Liberties Union which has been representing her since 2004. She was referring to her relationship with her partner, Dawn Roginski.

The women were rejected because the Department of Social Services had an “unwritten policy” denying homosexuals the right to be foster parents based on the Missouri Code of State Regulations. The Code stated that homosexual activity in the state of Missouri was unlawful. Even though that law was rendered unconstitutional by the U. S. Supreme Court in Lawrence vs. Texas in 2003, it was still on the books.

In February of this year, Jackson County circuit judge Sandra C. Midkiff determined that the agency’s decision in denying a foster care license to Johnston was “arbitrary and unreasonable” and that “Ms. Johnston’s sexual orientation should not be the end point of the Agency’s consideration of her application”. The Department of Social Services decided to appeal Midkiff’s ruling, putting Johnston’s foster parent application on hold once again.

Then, in early June, Governor Matt Blunt signed a new state law into effect. The new law decriminalizes sexual activity between same-sex couples and renders the agency’s appeal impossible. As a result, there is no longer any basis for the state of Missouri to deny foster care licenses to lesbian and gay people. At last, the door to a loving home for the two thousand children desperately in need of foster care in the state of Missouri has been opened a little wider.

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