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New Year's Wish: More Support for KY's Kinship Care Families

PHOTO: A new report outlines the need for increased support for kinship caregivers in Kentucky.  Photo credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
PHOTO: A new report outlines the need for increased support for kinship caregivers in Kentucky. Photo credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
December 31, 2013

JEFFERSONTOWN, Ky. - In Kentucky, a lot of children are being raised by extended family members: at 6 percent of all kids, it's one of the highest kinship-care rates in the nation. A new report from Kentucky Youth Advocates outlines what the group says needs to be done to increase support for grandparents and others raising kids who cannot safely live with their parents.

According to Jeanne Miller-Jacobs, who with her husband is raising their three grandkids, more assistance is badly needed.

"The biggest hurdle that we've had is misinformation," she said. When we first got the kids, the financial part of kinship care never came up."

She said her grandchildren, ages five, three and one, came to live with them because their parents struggle with drug addiction.

Kinship care has doubled in Kentucky in the last decade, and earlier this year, the state stopped taking new applications for its Kinship Care Program, which provides caregivers $10 a day to help meet a child's basic needs.

According to Kentucky Youth Advocates Executive Director Terry Brooks, the freeze needs to end, because that program is a better solution than the alternative, which is foster care.

"Kids are put in situations where they're not able to stay with relatives who love 'em" when they must go into foster care, he said. "And we're moving them from a system that works, kinship care, to a system that costs almost $70 a day."

The KYA report also calls for making it easier for kinship families to enroll children in school or get access to health care for them.

Jeanne Miller-Jacobs said streamlining the system would be a big help.

"I can tell you that when I had to renew the kids' medical cards, I was there for four and a half hours - and I had an appointment."

According to the report, 26 states have enacted health care consent laws and 14 states have enacted education consent laws.

Terry Brooks said he anticipates a bill in the 2014 legislative session to allow care-giving relatives access to children's services without the need for legal custody or guardianship.

"Those are things that other states have done successfully, and those are practices that Kentucky needs to emulate," Brooks stated.

That report is at KYYouth.org.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY