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Ky. Baptist Homes for Children rejects contract; agency may be forced to slash 230 positions

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Five days after announcing it would continue serving state-assigned children, Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children officials have rejected a state contract, a move that is expected to force the agency to downsize significantly.

At least half of KBHC’s 465-member staff eventually will lose their jobs, according to Executive Director Bill Smithwick.

The about face comes after a Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper story quoted a state official as saying it was “a very real possibility” that the state might stop sending children to the homes.

The statements from Viola Miller, secretary of Kentucky’s Cabinet for Families and Children, came four days after KBHC announced it would sign a more restrictive contract in order to continue to care for state children.

The contract would have specified that KBHC was fully responsible for bearing the cost to defend it’s hiring policy that prohibits the employment of homosexuals. It also would have more clearly stated that the state could quit sending children to the agency at any time and for any reason.

On June 23, Smithwick said he interpreted that clause as allowing individual case workers to stop sending children to KBHC. In some cases, that already had happened, he said, but other case workers were satisfied to assign children to KBHC.

On June 28, however, Smithwick said Miller would not speak with KBHC and her attorney would not clarify her statements.

“We believe that’s exactly what Dr. Miller meant,” he said. “We believe the state’s intentions are not to send children to us.

“The state has asked us to indemnify them without any boundaries whatsoever, all costs, attorney’s fees,” he added. “On the other hand they’re saying, ‘We’re not going to send them any more children.’ Now why would you enter into a contract like that? It makes no sense.”

Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children currently has approximately 340 youth who are in foster or residential care assigned by the Cabinet for Families and Children or the Department for Juvenile Justice.

KBHC will continue to care for state children after its contract expires June 30, but likely will have to charge more from the state in order to pay retention bonuses to employees whose futures are in doubt, Smithwick said.

“For the immediate future, our goal is to keep the children safe during the interim period,” Smithwick said.

Foster parents could continue caring for children under their supervision by transferring their services either to the state or other private providers, he added.

Smithwick said the state’s position has been influenced by a “small group of social workers in Jefferson County.”

I think the citizens of Kentucky should be irate, outraged that state government is as pro-gay as it is, particularly in the Cabinet for Family and Children,” he said.

Smithwick declined to say what size KBHC will be without state funds. Of Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children’s $21 million budget, approximately $12 million is earmarked as coming from state funds.

“We’ve had a lot of folks say, ‘Stay your course. We’re behind you,’ Smithwick said. I guess we’ll find out how behind us they are, won’t we?”

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  • David Winfrey