State could offer contracted accommodation, says Sunrise

By BRANDON PORTER, Kentucky today

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Sunrise Children’s Services says they continue to be frustrated with the information they have received from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The agency is seeking accommodation to protect its deeply held religious beliefs as the contract renewal deadline approaches.

“It’s frustrating trying to communicate and trying for so long. And you finally get the answer of what you need to do and that’s bad news, ”Sunrise President Dale Suttles said.

In a letter sent to Sunrise on May 19, CHFS attorney Wesley Dukes asked Sunrise to request a waiver from the Washington Department of Health and Human Services if they wanted to receive the addendum.

According to Sunrise attorney John O. Sheller, after a 15-minute phone call with HHS, it was determined that the regulation CHFS referred to had been repealed by the Trump administration on November 19, 2019.

He says this means that the regulations “have no application to Sunrise. It has no application to this situation. They suggest that we should have requested a waiver of this rule, but of course we did not ask for a waiver as it had already been repealed by the time the Beshear administration took office.

Sheller said Sunrise’s latest contract with the state included accommodation for the agency. It was signed during the Bevin administration and lasted for the first six months of the Beshear administration. The agency has been working without a contract, but under these conditions, since July 2020 because a new contract was not necessary.

CHFS has given Sunrise a deadline of June 30 to sign a contract or risk losing state funding and hundreds of children in its foster homes and residential treatment centers.

At a press conference on May 10, Governor Andy Beshear said he had been told that federal regulations would not allow CHFS to extend accommodation without the waiver.

Sheller says the repeal of the regulation removes this barrier. “It not only frees them to do it, but other laws force them to do it,” Sheller said.

“Someone prepared the governor to make the remarks he made at this press conference and the governor was sadly misled,” Suttles said.

Suttles said he was surprised to learn that Cabinet was asking Sunrise to comply with a regulation that no longer exists. “I was puzzled. You cannot reply to something that does not exist. “

He says the confusion affects many Sunrise host families. “We have host families who are afraid. They want to stay with Sunrise, but they are told that, maybe, they may not be able to do it. We are fighting several battles on several fronts, ”said Suttles.

Sheller reiterated that Sunrise never turns a child away if they are qualified to care for them, even if the child identifies as LGBTQ.

Sunrise Hosting seeks agreements regarding its recruitment and placement of foster parents and its hiring practices. Sunrise is an agency of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and is guided by the belief that parents of the opposite sex are best suited as foster parents.

Suttles says if the agency is contacted by people who identify as LGBTQ, they refer them to the state or another agency for certification and placement of foster parents. He says the same philosophy guides their hiring practices.

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