Last week marked a seminal moment for Kentucky at the System of Care conference. Kentucky leaders tackled head on a challenge that has been facing Kentucky for years – disparities by race in outcomes for children. We’ve known for some time that racial disparities exist for kids in Kentucky. While the issue cannot be solved in one conference, beginning a broader dialogue about the issue represents a milestone along the path to ending disparate outcomes for children of color.
In comments about the event, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services Deputy Secretary Judge Tim Feeley noted, youth of color are more likely to be involved in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Youth of color are also less likely to receive specialty behavioral health services.
A panel of agency leaders, coordinated by Kentucky Youth Advocates and the state’s Subcommittee for Equity and Justice for All Youth, highlighted a new day for Kentucky. Representatives from agencies interacting with children each spoke about the disparities they see in their agency for youth of color and what actions they are taking to address them. The agencies were diverse, including child welfare, education, behavioral health, the courts, and juvenile justice. The messages shared by the agencies were similar, though, including worse outcomes for children of color and much work remaining to address the disparities.
Finding solutions to end disparities is not a quick task. It is encouraging to have agency leaders talking publicly about racial disparities and plans to address the disparities. Kentucky is closer to change that ensures all Kentucky children have opportunities to thrive and succeed.