Jeffersontown, KY – Every child needs a family and a safe place to call home. A new issue brief released today by Kentucky Youth Advocates, Every Kentucky Kid Needs a Family, highlights the importance of keeping families together and placing children who cannot stay with their parents in family placements, such as kinship care and foster families. The number of Kentucky children in out-of-home care due to abuse or neglect grew by 19 percent from 2010 to 2014, making it more important than ever to use placements that provide youth with a trusted, committed adult in a family setting.
“If we want children who have experienced abuse or neglect to thrive, we need a quality continuum of care that gives every child the opportunity to grow up in the care of a family,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director at Kentucky Youth Advocates. “We need to try to keep families safely together before looking at other options. Beyond that, other family placements—be that with kinship caregivers or in quality foster families—are the best alternative. Residential treatment facilities may be necessary short-term interventions for some children with intense treatment needs, but they’re at the far end of the spectrum.”
Family placements are also the least expensive option for the state. For example, at their most expensive, foster family placements can cost from $92 to $140 per day, compared to the upper end for residential treatment facilities at $219 to $274 per day.
Every Kentucky Kid Needs a Family includes a series of recommendations to ensure that children who have experienced abuse or neglect have the chance to grow up in the care of a family:
- Increase family preservation and reunification services. Families who participate in these services are less likely to experience out-of-home care, as parents learn how to cope with life stressors while creating a nurturing environment. Services vary and could include strengthening parenting skills and helping parents recover from substance abuse.
- Support kinship families. The vast majority of Kentucky children being raised by grandparents or other relatives due to abuse or neglect are kept out of the foster care system through the Kentucky Kinship Care Program. Kentucky needs to lift the moratorium on this program so more kinship caregivers can access the resources provided. Kentucky can also increase the stability of kinship placements by providing additional supports such as child care assistance, respite care, and trainings.
- Increase the number and quality of foster care homes. When kinship care is not an option, a foster family is the next best alternative. Kentucky can recruit more foster parents, and better equip and support them, to reduce the number of different foster homes a child experiences.
- Only use residential treatment facilities for youth with intense clinical needs. When children need intensive services, quality residential treatment can help to meet those needs, but it must be used as a short-term intervention that focuses on returning children to a family setting as soon as possible.
- Invest in efficiency in Kentucky’s child welfare system. Kentucky can ensure our most vulnerable children receive the help they need from the Department for Community Based Services by establishing manageable caseloads, either through improved caseload management or by hiring more workers, and by using data and technology to track child outcomes.
“We know kids do best in families, and we can build on the positive work in Kentucky to support birth parents, empower kinship and foster families, and only use residential treatment facilities when they’re necessary. Family truly is the best medicine,” added Brooks.
Every Kentucky Kid Needs a Family is available now at kyyouth.org.
Kentucky Youth Advocates believes all children deserve to be safe, healthy, and secure. As THE independent voice for Kentucky’s children, we work to ensure policymakers create investments and policies that are good for children.