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Missouri lesbians keep up fight to become foster parents

Missouri lesbians keep up fight to become foster parents

Two Kansas City, Mo., women aren't giving up their efforts to become foster parents despite being told that Missouri law doesn't support the legal custody of a child being placed with a lesbian couple. Lisa Johnston and Dawn Roginski passed a home site visit and completed seven of nine training sessions before officials with the state's Department of Social Services told them in October 2004 that they would no longer be allowed to attend the training program. Johnston, with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union, subsequently filed a lawsuit April 8 in Jackson County. ACLU cocounsel Lisa Brunner, a Kansas City lawyer representing the couple, said Missouri is the only state actively denying foster parent licenses to gay and lesbian couples. "Even Florida," Brunner said, "which has an anti-gay adoption bill, allows gays and lesbians to become foster parents." The ACLU typically sends out press releases almost immediately upon the filing of significant lawsuits, but the advocacy group chose to keep mum on this case until after the Kansas City Star published a story, Brunner said. Even in its own review of the couple, the Department of Social Services conceded the women have exceptional qualifications to become foster parents. But openness about their long-term relationship proved a problem for the Missouri officials, who are taking a "don't ask, don't tell" approach in denying the women roles as foster parents. At an administrative hearing on the case in March, state officials said they weren't required to ask about sexual orientation when reviewing applications but that they would act on the information if it became known. Johnston holds a bachelor's degree in human development and family, with an emphasis on child development. She works for KCMC Child Development Corp. as an educational consultant. She previously worked at Kansas City's Children's Place, whose services include training foster parents. Roginski has a master's degree in counseling, a master's in divinity, and a bachelor's in counseling. She is a therapist and chaplain at a treatment center for young people with emotional and behavioral disorders, and she previously worked at a domestic violence shelter. Both women are active in their church and feel a personal calling to help children with developmental challenges, their attorney said. The case will likely be watched nationally for its repercussions on family law. A court review of Johnston's appeal over the state agency's decision has not yet been set. Attorneys for the state have until May 9 to file a response to her court petition. (Advocate/Sirius OutQ)

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