As Kentucky has seen an increase in the number of children in foster care, many agencies, organizations, and individuals are working in innovative and collaborative ways to respond to the needs of children who’ve experienced abuse or neglect. Below are a few examples of work that is underway in Frankfort and around the state. We’re also sharing five ways you can get involved in the new year to help ensure every kid is safe and has a family.

We at Kentucky Youth Advocates continue to track the implementation of House Bill 1 and other policy efforts to understand the impact on Kentucky children and families. The Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee has met monthly since their establishment and over the General Assembly’s interim have heard presentations on changes the Cabinet for Health and Family Services have in progress or are planning, progress on House Bill 1 implementation in the courts from the Administrative Office of the Courts, and on other topics like implementation of federal legislation, information around privatized foster care services, and supports for substance exposed infants. The committee continues to dig deeper into ways to strengthen families and keep children safe to get a better understanding of the need for additional policy change. The committee will reconvene with the General Assembly in 2019.

The Cabinet has also publicly committed to implementing the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) as a part of their broader work to transform Kentucky’s child welfare system. This commitment is a positive one for Kentucky and will lead to ensuring more children are connected to family. Casey Family Programs recently broadcast webinars with examples of how some states and jurisdictions are preparing for Family First implementation, including our neighbors in Ohio highlighted in Session Two of the series.

How can you get involved?

When it comes to policy change, it can be hard to identify how to play a role. With a growing number of children in foster care and other out-of-home placements, there are many opportunities to get involved in this work. Below are 5 ways you can make a difference:

  1. Attend the Summit: The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is hosting their first ever child welfare summit, Uniting Kentucky, on January 16, 2019 in Louisville. This summit will bring together child welfare agencies and organizations, foster parents, kinship caregivers, and advocates to learn more about the transformational work that is underway. Registration information is coming soon.
  2. Advocate. As always, you can talk to your state Senator and Representative about important policy changes that impact vulnerable kids, particularly those impacted by the child welfare system, by advocating for policies supported by the Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children. Learn more about the 2019 Blueprint priorities here. Join advocates and raise your voice for kids at the annual Children’s Advocacy Day at the Capitol on February 13th. Find more details and register here.
  3. Become Trauma-Informed. Better understanding our children and families who experience trauma, like child maltreatment and family violence, can better prepare us to know how to help. There is a lot of information coming out about being “trauma-informed” but there is more to it than just knowing what trauma is. Check out the National Child Traumatic Stress Network to learn more about how traumatic experiences impact children and families here.
  4. Support Our Families: Do you know a parent or caregiver who is having a particularly rough time? Every family, whether it is a traditional family, foster or kinship family, or adoptive family, goes through seasons of difficulty. When we can identify struggles, we can generally do something to help. Offer respite, help with caregiving, or something as simple as helping with a meal.
  5. Provide Respite, Foster, or Adopt. Are you in a position to provide temporary care for a child? Are you looking to provide a permanent home for a child or young person in need of one? If you are ready to open your home, learn more about ways to do that at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services FACES website here.

While we look forward to the new year and think about resolutions, we challenge you to make one of these your first resolution of 2019. After all, keeping kids safe–and happy and hopeful–is up to each and every one of us.