2014 Legislative winsIt is July in Kentucky, and the frenzy of the legislative session is only a distant memory as summer staples like trips to grandma’s house, ice cream and fresh tomatoes from the garden fill our attention. Yet, July 15th brought reason to shift our attention momentarily back to the legislative session and celebrate the progress made. On that day, legislation took effect, including a number of substantive wins achieved in the 2014 legislative session for Kentucky children.

As of July 15th, doctors who regularly treat children are required to receive training on recognizing and preventing pediatric abusive head trauma (or, “shaken baby syndrome”), because of HB 157. Over half of children who died or nearly died from physical child abuse were victims of abusive head trauma, and this training will help doctors recognize the signs of abuse and how to report it.

As of July 15th, grandparents and other relatives who have stepped up to raise kin children are able to authorize health care and school services for the children in their care (SB 176). The new law allows relative caregivers to complete an affidavit stating they are the primary caregiver when they are unable to reach the parents and do not have the legal custody or guardianship needed to authorize health care or education for the child.

As of July 15th, primary care providers can partner with school districts to offer primary care services or a school based dental care program under SB 159. This bill will improve the availability of dental services for the underserved by allowing dental only programs if that is the desire and need of the school district or Head Start Program. A child in pain cannot learn, and too many Kentucky children face severe oral health problems that we need creative solutions to address.

As of July 15th, components of the juvenile justice reform bill start to go in to effect, refocusing Kentucky’s system on what works in juvenile justice for youth, families, and public safety. While some parts of SB 200 will not take effect until next year, the process has begun. Specifically for addressing status offenses, Family Accountability Intervention and Response teams are being implemented to connect youth to services early in the process to help families address the reasons for youth behavior.

We are thankful for the many elected champions, on the ground partners, and committed advocates who worked together to make these bills become reality.  We celebrate these bills taking effect this month, but the real excitement will be in the years to come when the positive impacts for kids of these policies show.