Johnston v. MO Dept. of Social Services - Plaintiff Profile: Lisa Johnston

Document Date: May 3, 2005

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When she was a little girl, Lisa Johnston dreamed of being a mommy someday. Now 40, she still dreams of motherhood, but she has been denied the chance to become a foster parent for one reason: she’s a lesbian.

Because of her work and volunteer experiences, she wants to give a home to a special needs child. When Lisa used to work at a facility for neglected and abused children, she saw lots of children in the foster care system. “It was so hard seeing these children being bounced around from one placement to another,” she said. “I have so much love to give to a child, and I would like to try to share some of that love with one of those children who so desperately needs it.”

So in 2003, when Lisa applied for a foster care license, passed a rigorous initial home study, and began attending training program for prospective foster parents, she thought she’d sail through the approval process. Instead, a Department of Social Services representative told her that her application for a license was being denied because she is a lesbian.

Ironically, Lisa is far more qualified than most foster care applicants. Lisa works for a child development nonprofit providing education and information to parents of young children and has a great deal of experience helping abused, neglected, and developmentally-challenged children. She is a church leader and leads a peaceful, home-centered life. On weekends she gardens, goes to the farmer’s market, and spends time with her friends.

Lisa filed an administrative appeal and took part in a hearing in January of 2004, which she ultimately lost in March of 2005. The next month, the ACLU asked a state court to overturn the DSS’s refusal. In the meantime, over 1,900 children in Missouri are waiting for good homes, and the nursery and cradle in Lisa’s home remains empty.

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