FRANKFORT, Ky. — A $250,000 no-bid state contract awarded to a Southern Baptist professor to assess Kentucky’s troubled child welfare system cleared a legislative committee on Tuesday over the objections of a Democratic state senator.
The Government Contract Review Committee approved the contract for Daniel Dumas, who is an adoptive parent and a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin awarded the contract last month after promising to hire an “adoption czar” during his annual State of the Commonwealth address.
The panel has six Republicans and two Democrats — and in the end, the minority members decided not to vote. They included Democratic state Sen. Julian Carroll, who has criticized Dumas for not being qualified for the position.
“He knows nothing about the operation of state government,” Carroll, who was governor of Kentucky in the 1970s, said later. “He’s had one adoption so now he’s an expert at adoptions?”
Executive Cabinet Secretary Scott Brinkman said Bevin chose Dumas because of his background as a search and rescue swimmer in the Navy and his extensive writings about leadership that include “the need to think outside the box.”
Adria Johnson, commissioner of the Department of Community Based Services, told lawmakers they needed to hire someone quickly because the number of children in the state’s foster care system increased by 523 in the past three months for a total of more than 8,500.
“We suspect a lot of that is due to the opioid crisis,” she said. “We don’t have an adequate number of foster and adoptive homes across the state.”
Kentucky has routinely not met federal child-welfare standards, including ones requiring that “children are, first and foremost, protected from abuse and neglect.” Bevin said he wanted to hire someone capable of proposing solutions who isn’t burdened by the day-to-day stresses of running an agency responsible for caring for all those children.
“I think that’s a good idea, bringing in someone who is not burdened with the old ways of doing things that quite frankly aren’t working in adoption and foster care and haven’t worked really well for quite a long time,” said Republican state Rep. Stan Lee.
Carroll said he has sent a letter to Bevin about his concerns, but he was silent when it came time to vote for the contract on Tuesday.
“I didn’t want to give any indication I was for it, nor did I appear to want to be impolite and be overly critical,” he explained later.