Foster parents sue state; Couple alleges children removed from home because they are African-American, lesbians

Published 1:06 pm Friday, June 23, 2017

Two foster parents in Clark County allege they were terminated from the program because of their race and sexual orientation.

Tiniqua and Felicia Gay filed a lawsuit June 13 in U.S. District Court in Lexington against the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the Department of Community Based Services along with three DCBS employees after their home was closed in May.

According to the suit, both Tiniqua and Felicia, who were married Nov. 2, 2016, were certified as foster parents in 2013 and five children were placed in their care, including two infants in May 2015 and June 2016. Four of those five children were Caucasian. The Gays said they wanted to adopt the two infants and told DCBS officials in January.

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The Gays say they were terminated as foster parents following an incident April 12 12 involving the birth mother, Felicia Gay and Emily Sergeant, a DCBS social worker in Clark County.

In the suit, Gay said the birth mother was giving one of the children pizza, even though the child was known to be allergic to tomatoes. Gay asked about the ingredients of the pizza but said the birth mother began yelling at her and used racial slurs.

Gay said she did not respond for fear of escalating the situation, but said Sergeant did nothing to end the incident either.

Gay said she filed a complaint about Sergeant on April 25. Two days later, Gay said she was notified by DCBS officials the two infants would be removed from the home because of the incident with the birth mother.

On May 2, they were notified the state was closing their home to future placements and would not “allow a situation to exist that is not in the best interest of the children.”

The couple was told their home was being closed at their request, but they denied making that request in a certified letter mailed May 8. Three days later, DCBS said they were closing the Gays’ home to foster placements.

In the suit, they say the birth mother’s parental rights were due to be terminated May 15.

An April 26 email from Lesley Spencer, the DCBS foster care and adoption supervisor in Clark County, alleges Felicia Gay called the birth mother “irresponsible” and there was yelling back and forth. Spencer wrote that Gay “tried to grab the child” and “yelled at the mother even after she retreated to her vehicle.”

Spencer confirmed a racial slur was uttered by the birth mother.

“At this point, we are heartbroken and devastated about the situation,” Felicia Gay said Thursday.

Cabinet for Health and Family Services spokesman Doug Hogan said in an email he could not comment on pending litigation.

The Gays believe the two infants were placed with a caucasian, heterosexual couple because the Gays are lesbian and African-American. They also said the state’s action bars them from adopting those children in the future since they would require DCBS approval.

They believe the department, Sergeant, Spencer and regional supervisor Kristy Kidd intentionally discriminated and retaliated against them because of their race and sexual orientation.

The Gays are seeking $1.4 million for “embarrassment,” “humiliation” and “intentional infliction of emotional duress,” a state review of all complaints within the last five years from foster parents where children were removed for race, sexual orientation or family status, that the named social workers take sensitivity training and a jury trial.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email or call 859-759-0051.

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