Two weeks ago, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services announced that it will dramatically cut child care assistance to low income families and will pay no new subsidies to relatives caring for children who have been abused or neglected. This announcement spells trouble for a whole host of reasons, as many voices around the state have passionately and eloquently described. In addition to eliminating critical supports that help children, families and our economy thrive, these cuts will undoubtedly cost our state more in the long run.
In an op-ed published widely across the state, Gerry Roll, executive director of the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, makes the case that cuts to child care assistance will have a damaging effect on all of us, not just low-income Kentuckians. She writes, “Just like roads and bridges, a high-quality child care system is part of the infrastructure for economic development by enabling working parents to work, as well as investing in the future labor force, our children.” Further, “giving up on our current and future economy by giving up on our youngest children is not a good answer or even an acceptable temporary solution.” If these proposed changes to child care subsidies take effect, Kentucky will have the lowest threshold for income eligibility in the country, leaving more parents without options.
In a letter to the editor in the Courier-Journal, long-time child advocate Helen Deines points out the unquestionable truth that the cuts to kinship care are pennywise and pound foolish. According to Deines, “All studies show that the overwhelming majority of children and youth do far better in kinship care than in foster care.” Yet, data also show that relatives who are raising children are more likely to be poor, single, older, less-educated and unemployed than families in which at least one parent is present. Cuts to kinship care subsidies will make it harder for grandparents and other relatives to help kids recover from abuse or neglect and drive more kids into the foster care system. A kinship care subsidy costs the state just $300 a month, while payments to foster care parents costs around $600 a month, not to mention the additional costs to the cabinet for the ongoing work of social workers with children in foster care.
Deines also points out that cuts to child care assistance will undoubtedly force some families to make drastic decisions that could endanger their children. She writes, “We are told to warn parents to leave their infants and young children only in licensed child care facilities or with family. Then the cabinet makes a policy decision making it impossible for our poorest families to meet these standards.”
We should expect better as a state. Our families deserve better. Our children, Kentucky’s future, deserve better.
Budgets are about priorities. If helping kids recover from abuse and neglect, and keeping parents working, are important to our elected officials, then the General Assembly and Governor Beshear need to find the resources to protect those investments.
Take action today and let Kentucky leaders know that you expect them to protect kids from cuts. Visit here to learn how.