Sunrise seeks dialogue with Cabinet, at risk of being denied contract


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) - Sunrise Children’s Services, one of Kentucky’s oldest foster care providers, is seeking a dialogue with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services so they can renew their annual contract with the state.

“The cabinet has emailed a contract and we’ve reached out many times to set up a dialogue to discuss the contract,” said Dale Suttles, president of Sunrise. The organization’s attorney has attempted to contact the cabinet more than 20 times since March 2020, Suttles says.

Sunrise is an institution of the Kentucky Baptist Convention dating back to 1859. They have been partnering with the state since the late 1970s. According to Suttles, since Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration, there has been a discussion on the annual contract with the governor’s administration. Each year they have received an addendum to the annual contract which protects their deeply held religious convictions.

Susan Dunlap, a spokeswoman for the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, told the Courier-Journal in an email on Thursday, “The cabinet has offered Sunrise Children’s Services, an adoption/foster care agency, opportunities to enter into an agreement required by federal law. They have refused to do so.”

”At the heart of the issue is the fact that there are some individuals and couples who are not the best fit for our Sunrise foster care program, but Jesus has taught us to love everyone, and that's exactly what we do,” Suttles said. “The foster care process is so important to each person involved - the parents, the agency, and certainly the child - and so we lovingly help any individual or couple find a better fit with another organization if necessary. That is not the answer the current administration wants to hear." 

Suttles says the organization will not turn a child away because of their race, nationality, sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Sunrise cannot renew their contract with the state because of their deeply held religious beliefs,” said Todd Gray, Kentucky Baptist Convention executive director-treasurer, “In year’s past an addendum or accommodation has been given, but that’s not the case in 2021.

“One news outlet is saying Sunrise is pulling out on the state implying that Sunrise is abandoning the state. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Gray said. “Sunrise would sign a contract today that respects their deeply held religious convictions.”

Over the past 15 years, Sunrise has helped the adoption of close to 600 children in state care become a reality, according to Suttles.

“The cabinet has come in and recruited foster care families from Kentucky Baptist churches,” Suttles said, “If those families are good enough to work with the state, then why isn’t Sunrise?”

Suttles says Sunrise “won’t abandon Kentucky’s children” and is still optimistic a solution can be reached with Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration.


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