The legislative session is moving along quickly and this week, a couple of good bills for kids made progress. We are excited about the movement of these bills and look forward to them continuing through the legislative process. Here’s a snapshot on what moved forward this week:

SB 176 – Passed Senate Judiciary Committee (Kinship Caregiver Authorization Law)

grandma and girlToday’s passage of SB 176 by the Senate Judiciary Committee is a true affirmation of the importance Kentuckians place on family values. The bill helps family members who are stepping up to raise kin children when the children’s parents are unable to do so. SB 176 makes sure kinship caregivers can access health care and educational services for children in their care when legal guardianship is not feasible.

We know that grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other relatives often step in to care for kin children on a short-term basis without knowing how difficult it will be to navigate the complex education and health care systems. We also know that children fare better when they can stay with relatives than if they are put in foster care, and this bill supports relatives willing to do that. This is a common sense solution that doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime.

We commend Senator Harper Angel, who was raised by her grandmother, for sponsoring this important piece of legislation. The passage of SB 176 today represents a step forward to help children currently being raised by relatives in Kentucky. We now encourage all members of the Senate to support this bill on the Senate floor.

SB 200 – Passed Senate Judiciary Committee (Juvenile Justice Reforms)

SUFK 2012 4 (1)Today’s passage of SB 200 by the Senate Judiciary Committee begins the important process of fundamental reform of juvenile justice in the Commonwealth with changes that will mean better outcomes for kids and for public safety.

Specifically, this bill emphasizes investing limited state dollars in community-based programs that are more effective at getting youth back on track. It also makes great strides towards reserving costly incarceration and other placements out of home for youth with the most serious offenses. A multi-disciplinary team is also being established to review cases and assist in addressing core issues contributing to youth behavior.

SB 200 represents substantial progress, and we commend Senator Westerfield and Representative Tilley for their leadership and ethical commitment to Kentucky’s kids. It also is a reminder that key groups remain missing in action when it comes to finding solutions that work best for kids. The K-12 establishment has continued to cling to antiquated means of dealing with youth who miss school – namely insisting that the threat of incarceration be used. We know that locking up kids for behaviors that would not be considered crimes if they were adults (known as status offenses) doesn’t work, and it’s the most expensive option. It’s time for schools to become a part of the solution.

Despite the gap in addressing locking up youth for status offenses, SB 200 moves Kentucky in the right direction with a juvenile justice system that is better for kids, better for the state budget and better for public safety.