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Group to fight foster parenting policy

A coalition formed to oppose an initiated act to ban unmarried couples living together from adopting or serving as foster parents in Arkansas says it also will fight a state policy banning placement of foster children with “cohabitating adults.”
Members of Arkansas Families First say they will testify in opposition to the policy at a Department of Human Services hearing on Thursday. The group requested the hearing after learning recently that the policy, which was put in place through a directive in 2005, has never been formalized.
“We simply do not have enough foster homes in the state, and by creating blanket policies such as these that arbitrarily disqualify potential foster-care homes, that just simply does more harm to children, and they’ve already been through a lot,” said Jennifer Ferguson, deputy director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.
The Family Council, which authored the proposed initiated act on adoption and foster parenting that will appear on the November ballot, plans to testify in support of the DHS policy. Family Council Executive Director Jerry Cox called Arkansas Families First’s request for a hearing “an unnecessary distraction.”
“The Department of Human Services is trying to protect children,” he said. “These groups have stepped in, they have an agenda, and now they’re complicating the process. I think that’s unfortunate for the children of Arkansas.”
Cox said the Family Council will continue to campaign for its initiated act, which would differ from the state policy in that it would ban both adoption and foster parenting by unwed couples, whereas the policy only addresses foster parenting.
The hearing will be 10 a.m. Thursday at the Department of Human Services’ main office in downtown Little Rock.

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