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New Law a Game Changer for Kentucky Kids

There are more than 8,000 children in Kentucky's foster-care system. (Pixabay)
There are more than 8,000 children in Kentucky's foster-care system. (Pixabay)
April 23, 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky's child-welfare system is set to get a major overhaul, which could be a game-changer for the more than 8,000 children in foster care. With the passage of House Bill 1 this session, new reforms will help strengthen how the commonwealth supports children impacted by abuse or neglect.

Co-sponsor Rep. David Meade says one measure will help reduce complications in the system to ensure children in foster care are more quickly placed into a permanent home.

"They all long for that love and that attention and that closure in that process, and so when that happens, that family is there to help them and nourish them along in that life, and so that's what I think they long for the most in this process," he explains.

The new law creates tighter timelines for the termination of parental rights, so children are not left in the limbo of the court system. And it establishes a Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee to focus primarily on improving the foster-care and adoption process.

In crafting the bill, Meade and co-sponsor Rep. Joni Jenkins met with various stakeholders. Jenkins says they understand the gravity of terminating parental rights, and so the new committee is tasked with ensuring biological parents have the support and opportunity to get back on track.

"The first step is always going to be family preservation, and we encourage them to put more resources into those programming because if we can keep those families together and keep them healthy and safe, everybody really does benefit," she says.

As the executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, Dr. Terry Brooks says Meade and Jenkins should be commended for their hard work to make child-welfare reform a reality.

"Especially given the bifurcated and toxic environment in Frankfort in 2018, they exemplified that legislators can still work in a bipartisan way; that folks can find common ground and common-sense solutions," Brooks says.

Other provisions in the new law will improve efforts to hire and retain social workers, give grandparent kinship providers more legal rights and foster parents a stronger voice in the child-welfare process.

Mary Kuhlman/Shaine Smith, Public News Service - KY