Arkansas to drop ban on foster parenting

By Andrew DeMillo, AP

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — The state of Arkansas plans to reverse course and allow unmarried or same-sex couples to take foster children on a case-by-case basis, even as voters prepare to decide the issue in November, the state Department of Human Services said Thursday. The agency said it would end its plan to formalize the prohibition, which has been in place since an executive directive was signed in 2005. The department said it will instead propose allowing state workers to place foster children case by case. “Recognizing that this is a sensitive societal issue, it’s important to expand our recruitment base so that we can to find a family that best meets the needs of every child,” agency director John Selig said. The change comes as a conservative group campaigns in favor of a November state ballot initiative that would ban unmarried couples from adopting or fostering children.

A judge earlier decided that a 1999 state ban on gay and lesbian foster parents was unconstitutional, a ruling upheld by the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2006. To get around the ruling, the state broadened the ban to include all unmarried cohabitating couples, not just same-sex couples.