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Texas considers bill barring gays from becoming foster parents

Texas considers bill barring gays from becoming foster parents

Texas would become the only state to bar gays and bisexuals from becoming foster parents under legislation passed Wednesday by the house. The ban was an amendment tacked on to a bill that would overhaul the state's troubled Child Protective Services agency. The measure now goes to the senate, which has approved a version of the CPS bill but not the foster parent amendment. "It is our responsibility to make sure that we protect our most vulnerable children, and I don't think we are doing that if we allow a foster parent that is homosexual or bisexual," said Republican representative Robert Talton, the author of the amendment, on Tuesday. If the bill becomes law, Texas would be the only state to bar gays from becoming foster parents, according to the American Civil Liberties Union Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. Arkansas had barred gay people or any family with a gay member from becoming foster parents, but a judge in December declared the law unconstitutional. Several Democrats argued against the amendment, which was approved on an 81-58 vote. Many were critical that the argument was moving away from CPS reform, which was called for after recent high-profile cases of child homicides in the state. "We are here to put children first, not ideology," Rep. Mike Villarreal said. "How are we going to implement Representative Talton's inquisition?" Under the amendment, an applicant to be a foster parent, or a foster parent whose performance is being evaluated, must list whether he or she is homosexual or bisexual. If the applicant is, the state would bar him or her from becoming a foster parent. If the person is already a foster parent, the child or children would be removed from that home. Eva Thibaudeau, who with her partner of eight years is a licensed foster parent, said she was in shock over the amendment. During the past eight years, she and her partner have adopted four kids and fostered 75 children. "I am just so hurt and surprised, especially now [when] we are facing an ongoing crisis of not having enough resources to take care of foster children," said Thibaudeau, a social worker. The amendment came as debate on the bill neared an end. Republican representative Suzanna Hupp, sponsor of the original bill, said her measure would strengthen CPS investigations, authorize onsite monitoring of foster homes operated by child-placing agencies, and increase caseworker and supervisor training. The bill also would spin off some of CPS's duties to the private sector, including foster care and case management. Private entities already recruit and manage 75% of foster homes in Texas, and the state handles the rest. Hupp's bill would turn all of those functions over to private agencies. Those agencies also would take over case management tasks that occur after children are removed from their home, such as conducting family visits and developing case plans for children. The state handles those tasks now. Democratic representative Garnett Coleman urged the house not to privatize those services, saying private agencies should not be charged with making decisions for the children. "I think it's more important that we have that in the hands of our state government directly with people who are accountable," Coleman said. But Rep. Toby Goodman, a Republican from Arlington, said it doesn't make sense to have state personnel working with the child's family and a private provider working with the child. (AP)

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