FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A Southern Baptist professor will lead an overhaul of the state’s troubled adoption and foster care system under a $240,000 contract awarded to him by the state’s Republican governor.
Daniel S. Dumas will begin his new job as a special adviser to Gov. Matt Bevin on June 19. His contract calls for him to assess a state system that has more than 8,000 children in out-of-home care and yet consistently has not met federal standards on preventing abuse and neglect.
This issue is personal for Bevin and Dumas, who both have adopted children. Bevin and his wife adopted four children from Ethiopia after they tried and failed to adopt an 11-year-old girl from Kentucky’s foster care system. Bevin said the state rejected their application because he already had five children and they worried the girl would not get enough attention.
Bevin said the failed adoption process is one of the things that spurred him to run for public office, a high-profile but unsuccessful primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014 followed by a come-from-behind win in the 2015 governor’s race.
The contract’s stated goal is to “substantially reduce the number of children within the foster care system” and to speed up the adoption process.
“There is no reason a child in Kentucky, who is ready to be adopted, should be without a family,” Bevin said in a news release announcing the contract.
Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, praised the appointment but urged Bevin to spend more money on a system he says has been plagued by underfunding and inadequate staffing. But Bevin has said an overhaul would not come with a significant increase in state spending.
Dumas is an executive vice president at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, where he is also a professor of Christian ministry and leadership. In a news release, the seminary said Dumas has led the school’s building projects and renovations while writing and editing books, including “Guide to Biblical Manhood.”
“Gov. Bevin and I are committed, along with many other Kentuckians, to not back down until every orphan in Kentucky has a loving home,” Dumas said in a news release.
Bevin has deep ties to the Southern Baptist Convention. He and his wife made a major donation to the seminary in 2012 to establish the Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization. It was named after the couple’s 17-year-old daughter, who wanted to be a missionary but was killed in a car accident in front of the seminary in 2003.
Bevin has also asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit settlement over proselytizing at a foster care home run by the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear pushed to settle the lawsuit with an agreement that the American Civil Liberties Union would monitor the group. But Bevin, as governor, has asked a federal judge to throw the settlement out.