Throughout May, the nation is celebrating Foster Care Month with a focus on empowering caregivers and strengthening families because all children need a safe and loving family. To keep kids safe, Kentucky needs a child welfare system that responds effectively and thoroughly when abuse is suspected. If a child has experienced abuse or neglect, family is truly the best medicine to help those children thrive. To keep children connected to a family, Kentucky can intervene in three ways:
1. Family Preservation
Sometimes what a child needs most is for their parents to get help. Family preservation services are short-term and help parents overcome challenges while keeping kids safe and healthy within their homes. Family preservation services allow the child to grow up in a stronger, safer home. If the child is removed for their safety, they enter kinship or foster care.
2. Kinship Care
When a child cannot safely remain with their parents, relatives or close family friends can provide a vital, loving safety net. Placing children with adults that already know and care for them can help lessen the trauma of being removed from their homes. In kinship care situation, the child either returns to their home once their parents are able to safely care for them or is placed with their kinship family permanently, ideally through adoption.
3. Foster Care
When kinship care is not available, well-trained foster parents can provide safe and nurturing family settings. Some foster families adopt, while others care for a child until they return to their parents or until other adoptive parents are found, providing the child with a permanent home.
There are currently over 8,000 Kentucky kids in need of a forever family and each of them deserve to be in a safe and loving home, whether that’s in the care of their parents, a relative caregiver, or a foster parent. It’s time for Kentucky to be bold to make sure every child has a family – whether that’s by helping parents address challenges that impede their parenting ability, supporting kinship caregivers who step up to care for kin children, ensuring foster parents have the training and support they need to provide stability in a child’s life, or simplifying the adoption process when a child can’t return home. Improving the continuum of options will help achieve the goal of every child living in a loving and safe home. Our children deserve no less.