Parenting can be tough under normal circumstances but adding in extra obstacles that come with getting a family back together after child removal can be even more challenging. While foster care may be a necessary option when there are safety and well-being concerns, the ideal goal is to return children to their own families and back in their homes whenever safely possible.
During the month of June, Kentucky joined other states to recognize National Reunification Month. Reunification Month is a time to honor those who triumph after child removal. It is important to cheer on families who overcome barriers to provide safety and stability for Kentucky kids. It is also important to learn from those who have been involved in the system to continue improving it.
Let’s look at how the Commonwealth is working to create a system that takes the voices of birth parents and others into consideration as it seeks to improve.
At least twice a year, the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts hosts Citizen Foster Care Review Board Town Halls. These regional meetings are open to the public. In honor of Reunification Month this year, meetings were held in the month of June where the Department for Community Based Services provided updates on the implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act relating to family preservation. Attendees—including youth or former foster youth, biological parents, foster parents, relative and kinship caregivers as well as community partners and service providers—were then invited to an open discussion to share concerns regarding foster care, permanency, and community supports for families.
Another opportunity to support Kentucky families remaining whole came from the launch of the Birth Parent Advisory Council. Members who applied gathered to learn more about the purpose of the Council and ask questions about the next steps involved to empower parent voice for making key recommendations for Kentucky’s child welfare system. This group is continuing to grow and looking for parents who are interested in making recommendations and advising on ways to support parents and increase child abuse and neglect prevention efforts.
Who knows what families across the Commonwealth need better than the families themselves? Therefore lifting up parent voice not only this month, but all year, is necessary to pave the way forward for thriving livelihoods and positive change.