Brian and Kate Lafferty have been foster parents for three years, but when they going through the process of renewing their license, they were given a form to sign asserting that they would not have any loaded firearms in their home, even if they were carrying for self-defense inside their residence. Besides requiring that firearms be locked up unloaded, the agency that oversees the foster care program in the Laffertys home county also demands that ammunition be locked up and stored separately from any guns in the home.
The couple balked at the language from the Washington County Human Services Department, which also required them to list every firearm that the Laffertys own as well as where they’re stored. Rather than give up their role as foster parents, however, the couple are now suing the state and county agencies that oversee foster parents for violating the Second Amendment.
The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families said in a statement that the rules for foster parents must take into consideration both the safety of children and the rights of parents.
“The department’s longstanding administrative rules for foster families were established to create a reasonable balance between a person’s right to possess firearms and the agency’s responsibility to keep children safe while they are placed out of their homes,” the statement said.
Making it nearly impossible to protect your family (including your foster kids) with a firearm if necessary isn’t striking any sort of “reasonable balance.” Rather, it establishes a double standard, and one where foster families are placed at a greater risk of being the victims of violent crimes because they’re far less likely to be able to access a firearm.
Brian and Kate Lafferty were the subject of a profile in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel last December, and they come across as a genuine and down-to-earth couple who are trying to help kids in a tough situation.
Lafferty said that to celebrate Christmas, she and her husband plan to do traditional holiday activities with their foster children. They will make cinnamon rolls in the morning and open presents. Then, she said, they will spend time with their extended family, maybe watching a bit of football.
She and her husband, Brian have fostered two sets of siblings. They had two boys, until June, for three years. And now, they have two boys, ages 7 and 9, who have been with them for about four weeks.
“We treat them as if they are our own,” said Lafferty. But she knows that these foster children are only in her home temporarily…
The hardest thing about fostering is knowing you will have to say goodbye, said Lafferty.
She went through this herself when she recently had to part from two brothers, ages 8 and 11, whom she and her husband had fostered for three years.
“When we said goodbye, it was the hardest thing we ever had to go through,” she said.
But she also said that shebecame close with the boys’ biological father and that they keep in touch. It is a lifelong relationship, she explained.
“We had to grieve (after saying goodbye to her past foster kids). We took some time off from fostering and let our hearts heal,” said Lafferty. “But we knew we could do it again.”
She said it was rewarding to see the children flourish and grow.
“This is what we are supposed to be doing,” she said. “We made a lasting impact in their lives, and we were a positive influence. More people should step up. These kids are our future. I think it is good to have foster families in all communities.”
We need more folks like the Laffertys in the foster care system, but foster parents shouldn’t have to decide between helping a child in need and being able to protect their family in their home. Unfortunately, many other states have similar restrictions in place for foster parents, though the state of Texas made some improvements to their law last year by at least allowing foster parents to store locked firearms and ammunition together, making it easier to access and use a gun in self-defense if necessary.
I doubt the state of Wisconsin will take similar steps voluntarily, but hopefully the Laffertys and common sense will prevail in a court of law and they can soon return to helping kids in need while keeping them safe at home.