The man who oversees the foster care program in Kansas is retiring, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department for Children and Families has confirmed.
Michael Myers, a former Topeka construction executive who has worked in several positions in the child welfare agency under Gov. Sam Brownback, will retire at the end of December.
DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore named Myers director of prevention and protection services in December 2014. He replaced Brian Dempsey, who abruptly left the agency along with Kathe Decker, former deputy director for family services.
Myers is not a high-profile official, but some critics of the agency say he is among those responsible for what they believe has been a concerted effort to prevent same-sex couples in Kansas from adopting children.
He was singled out in a ruling issued by Johnson County District Judge Kathleen Sloan for his role in conducting a "witch hunt" against a lesbian couple in a 2013 foster care/adoption case. Sloan said Myers, Gilmore and other agency officials placed their concerns about the couple's sexuality "above concerns for the child's best interest."
Myers was director of DCF's Kansas City regional office at the time of the case.
Various DCF officials have denied the agency is working to discourage adoptions by gay couples. But Sloan, some legislators and several same-sex couples have said they believe there is a pattern of discrimination.
In the Johnson County case, DCF officials removed a 16-month-old boy from the lesbian couple's home, citing concerns about safety and their fitness as foster parents. One of the women had acknowledged receiving excess food-stamp benefits and had agreed to repay the state. But Judge Sloan said that DCF was applying a double standard, noting that Myers had personally approved an adoption in the same time period by a woman who had been found guilty of more serious offenses.
"In another case, this court received a consent by DCF, signed by Michael Myers, consenting to an adoption by a ten-year methamphetamine addict who had convictions of assault, battery, theft, forgery and a bad check on her record," Sloan wrote.
Theresa Freed, a spokesperson for DCF, said there is no connection between Myers’ retirement and the emerging controversy about the agency’s adoption policies.
“Before all these stories started coming out, he had made that decision,” Freed said.
Myers announced his retirement late last week in an internal email.
“It is with joy and a little sadness that I am announcing my retirement from DCF at the end of the month,” Myers wrote. “After over four years of working at DCF I feel it is time for a new challenge.”
No one has yet been named to replace Myers, Freed said.
Jim McLean is executive editor of KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.