The 2017 legislative session recently wrapped up, and kids and families won on several fronts. The General Assembly took action on a number of Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children legislative priorities ranging from supporting children who have to be removed from their home due to abuse and neglect to promoting work when people return home from incarceration – a critical piece for the many Kentucky children who have had a parent incarcerated. Advocates are celebrating several legislative successes for children and families made possible by many factors this year, but none as important as the work of the people who championed the bills in Frankfort.

Kentucky kids won in the 2017 legislative session because of leadership from First Lady Glenna Bevin who championed several bills to support foster youth in Kentucky, including HB 180 to allow children removed from their homes to be placed with close family friends, or fictive kin. With the support of the First Lady, Representative Addia Wuchner sponsored the bill and navigated it through the legislative process with unanimous support on every vote.

Kids also won because of the crucial leadership of Governor Matt Bevin, along with Cabinet Secretaries John Tilley and Derrick Ramsey, and Senator Whitney Westerfield on SB 120, which will impact the 135,000 Kentucky children who have had a parent incarcerated. Criminal justice reforms can present a challenge, but Governor Bevin’s message was loud and clear: our state should give people a second chance at success while also reducing the chance someone commits another crime after release. Governor Bevin’s bold vision for making thoughtful changes to our criminal justice laws will facilitate people leaving prison transition to a productive life – an outcome that is better for kids and local communities.

Kentucky kids won because of the leadership of Senate President Robert Stivers and Senator Westerfield on SB 195, which addresses a gap created for youth not allowed to expunge the same types of offenses as adults once they had stayed out of trouble. When revisions were needed in the House to clean up how the process would be implemented by the courts, Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Fischer and Representative Jason Nemes stepped up to champion the bill through committee and on the House floor.

Finally, kids won on SB 236, which was the product of leadership that navigated the challenges of the complex child welfare system to find a solution that keeps kids safe from abuse. Senator Julie Raque Adams and Senator David Givens worked with advocates to craft a strong bill that gives employers important information about findings of child abuse that works for the nuanced substantiations process.

Ultimately, what we learned from this session was that we have a multitude of champions willing to stand up for children and families. That was evidenced by overwhelming, bipartisan support for these Blueprint bills. That was evidenced by the number of people – those listed above and those working behind the scenes – who navigated these bills through the legislative chambers and to the Governor’s desk. Kentucky kids and families won in 2017.

Please join us in thanking your legislators for prioritizing kids in 2017. You can find information on how to take action HERE.