As many of you who follow Kentucky Youth Advocates’ blog know, kinship families in Kentucky saw a major win in this year’s General Assembly with passage of Senate Bill 176, sponsored by Denise Harper Angel. SB 176 allows a relative caregiver to complete an affidavit, under penalty of perjury, stating that they are the primary caregiver of the child, and then by presenting the form they can authorize health care treatment, educational services, and school enrollment.
Here’s a story of one family that illustrates just how important this legislation will be to help connect children in kinship families to vital services like health care and education.
Adele Flanery, a real estate agent from Fayette County, is raising her three grandchildren. The children’s mother started off as an exceptional parent, but after she become addicted to drugs things sadly went downhill. A deep sense of love and commitment to both her daughter and her grandchildren meant there was no question except for Ms. Flanery to step up to stabilize the situation for her family. She hoped that her daughter could get her life back in order but was prepared to care for the children as long as needed.
Soon after welcoming the children into her home in 2010, Ms. Flanery’s grandson started being continually sent home from day care due to fever. She took him to his doctor and learned that he was having recurring infections. The doctor advised that he needed tubes placed in his ears to prevent future ear infections and long-term damage to his hearing. However, since Ms. Flanery did not have legal custody or guardianship of her grandson, she did not have the ability to authorize surgery for her grandson. What’s more, her hands were tied because she was unable to locate her daughter to get her to consent to the procedure.
In the meantime, Ms. Flanery’s grandson continued to have painful ear infections causing her to miss work quite often. This went on for months. During that time Ms. Flanery contacted the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to try to get a court order granting her legal custody of the children. Unfortunately, the investigator did not follow up with Ms. Flanery for five months and by that time her daughter had reappeared and she was able to get her cleaned up enough to sign the authorization form for the doctors to perform the surgery in April of 2011. This was 7 months after the doctors had recommended the surgery.
If Kentucky had a kinship caregiver authorization law, as passed in SB 176, her grandson would not have had to wait. Ms. Flanery would have been able to complete an affidavit indicating that she was the primary caregiver for her grandson and unable to locate his mother and present that form to his physician in order to get him the surgery he needed to keep him healthy.
Thanks to Senator Harper Angel and the other members of our General Assembly, children being raised by grandparents and other relatives will have the options they need to get vital services like health care and education.