Elected leaders and advocates step up for Kentucky kids in countless ways every day, especially in Frankfort throughout the legislative session. During Children’s Advocacy Week, Kentucky Youth Advocates and partners in the Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children present Champion for Children and Step Up for Kids awards to honor those state leaders and advocates for their efforts.

At this year’s Rally for Kentucky Kids, we honored several members of the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly for their sponsorship of bills that were good for kids in the 2021 legislative session:

  • Senate Bill 10 established a Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity which is tasked with providing studies, research driven policy proposals, and annual reports crossing the sectors of education, child welfare, health, economic opportunity, juvenile justice, criminal justice, and any other arenas that are considered relevant for advancing services and opportunities for communities of color.
    • Senate President Pro Tem David Givens – primary co-sponsor
    • Senate President Robert Stivers – primary co-sponsor
    • Senator Whitney Westerfield – primary co-sponsor
    • Senator Ralph Alvarado
    • Senator Karen Berg
    • Senator Danny Carroll
    • Senator Alice Forgy Kerr
    • Senator Morgan McGarvey
    • Senator Robby Mills
    • Senator Gerald Neal
    • Senator Dennis Parrett
    • Senator Julie Raque Adams
    • Senator Reginald Thomas
    • Senator Damon Thayer
    • Senator Mike Wilson
  • Senate Bill 36, which received final passage via Senate Bill 32, allowed juvenile court judges to use their discretion in the decision to transfer youth ages 14 and older to adult court for situations involving a firearm.
    • Senator Whitney Westerfield, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Senate Bill 84 supported the health and well-being of pregnant mothers who are incarcerated and their babies by ensuring postpartum services, access to substance use treatment, and other community-based approaches, and by eliminating solitary confinement for people who are pregnant.
    • Senator Julie Raque Adams, Majority Caucus Chair – primary sponsor
    • Senator Whitney Westerfield
    • Senator Karen Berg
    • Senator Morgan McGarvey
    • Senator Gerald Neal
    • Senator Damon Thayer
    • Senator Adrienne Southworth
  • Senate Bill 148 began to simplify local planning and zoning laws to allow regulated, homebased family child care options to safely serve children in their neighborhoods.
    • Senator Danny Carroll
  • House Bill 472 established stronger accountability for perpetrators of child sexual abuse by strengthening statute of limitations timeframes for misdemeanor sexual abuse offenses from five to ten years to accommodate for delayed abuse disclosure.
    • Representative Lynn Bechler – primary sponsor
    • Representative Mark Hart
    • Representative C. Ed Massey
    • Representative Ruth Ann Palumbo
  • The continuation state budget included investments in critical programs and services that impact child safety, health, education, and wellbeing.
    • Senator Christian McDaniel, Chair of the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee
    • Representative Jason Petrie, Chair of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee

While we are recognizing these leaders for their efforts on these important pieces of legislation, we thank the entire Kentucky General Assembly for their support of these 2021 wins for kids!

The following state officials – all employees of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services – were also honored with 2022 Champion for Children awards for their efforts for kids and families, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Christa Bell, Executive Advisor, Department for Community Based Services
  • Lesa Dennis, Deputy Commissioner, Department for Community Based Services
  • Jason Dunn, Director, Division of Family Support
  • Melissa Goins, Director, Division of Family Resource and Youth Services Centers
  • Sarah Vanover, Director, Division of Child Care

Lastly, we honored Jennifer Washburn, a community child care advocate. Jennifer is the owner and Executive Director of iKids Childhood Enrichment Center in Benton, Kentucky, which has been serving children for over 20 years. Jennifer and her staff have been truly essential to her community. First by providing care for the children of health care workers in the early days of the pandemic and then doing everything she could to not only keep her center’s doors open, but to also advocate strongly to include child care in federal relief packages. Jennifer stepped up again to show the essential nature of child care when her community of Marshall County was one of the areas receiving a direct hit from the tornadoes that ravaged Kentucky. Jennifer’s center not only remained open, but also took in twenty-five school children and additional preschoolers so that parents could work, help serve their neighbors, or even clean up their own tornado ravaged spaces.

Congratulations to our 2022 Champion for Children and Step Up for Kids awardees!