Last updated May 15, 2020

Children in homes where instability was already present are now at an even greater risk with the uncertainty and disruptions in services brought on by the COVID-19 response. Given that Kentucky has the highest rates in the nation for both child maltreatment and kids living in kinship care, we must prioritize investments in the child welfare system and support the kids and families within the system.

Investments and state action include:

Address parental stress, isolation, and substance abuse to prevent child abuse

Target specific prevention services to communities where it is needed most and help state and local systems adapt to the unique challenges of serving families during this pandemic. Key services could include substance abuse treatment such as START and KSTEP, state child abuse hotlines, voluntary home visiting programs, parent support programs, baby pantries, distribution of food and medication, family resources centers, and respite care services.

Increasing funding to CAPTA Title II Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CB-CAP) grants by $1 billion could quickly deploy resources directly to these locally-driven prevention services, which would better serve families and avoid waiting lists. Additional emergency funds for Title IV-E and IV-B programs could support locally-identified gaps and needs through targeted grantmaking.

Isolation also increases the risk of domestic violence, and services available to caregivers experiencing violence and vital to child safety.

Ensure child abuse and neglect can still be recognized, reported, and investigated

Reports of child abuse are down, which is likely indicative of fewer adults being able to identify kids who have experienced abuse, not a decrease in incidences of abuse. Adults who still have virtual sessions with kids, such as teachers or therapists, should be alerted to look for signs of abuse or neglect. In-person child welfare investigations are being disrupted in ways that put children at risk of great harm. 

Increased CAPTA Title I funding would allow the child welfare workforce to better adapt to these new circumstances and ensure they have the technological and protective resources they need to serve families.

Support staff who continue to provide services to kids and families

Include essential human services workers in any first responder funding packages, and appropriate hazard pay to front line workers. This should include child welfare staff involved in child protection, prevention, foster care, and detention. Providers also need adequate PPE when providing services.

Provide additional guidance and support for kinship caregivers

These caregivers, who are often older, are struggling to access basic food, medicine, and supplies because it requires them to leave their home, increasing risk of exposure to the virus which could lead to incapacitating illness or death and no one else to care for the children. Increased funding to kinship navigator programs would ensure access to information and resources for older relative caregivers at acute risk of COVID-19 to meet their basic needs.

Improve the court process so that hearings can proceed

Court shutdowns and reduced staffing are resulting in delayed hearings. This is compromising child safety, delaying family reunification, and resulting in the loss of accountability and critical support to child victims and their families. Courts are attempting to invest in technology that would allow them to hold virtual proceedings, and additional federal investment would allow more courts to invest in reliable technology.

Ensure kids in out-of-home care continue to receive behavioral health services and visitation

Whether kids are in foster homes or group treatment facilities, they still have a need for behavioral health supports and family visitations. Telehealth services and televisits could allow those to continue. Providers need adequate funding for, and ongoing guidance on how to conduct, virtual therapy and case management services.

Support former foster youth who are in school and independent living

These young adults are experiencing serious economic challenges, whether they are now displaced due to university closures or struggling to pay their bills due to job loss or reduced hours. Increasing federal funding to Title IV-E Chafee funds would support young people in the transition from foster care to adulthood. This would allow Kentucky to have a more flexible, rapid response for these youth, including financial assistance, housing, and employment assistance, in the face of this pandemic.

Next Steps: 

  • Share Your Experience: We invite youth and families/caregivers who interact with the child welfare system to join us at an upcoming virtual community conversation to share how you’ve been impacted by the pandemic and what barriers you’ve experienced when accessing services, interacting with DCBS or the courts, and more. RSVP to attend a virtual conversation in May and June. All attendees will be entered into drawings to receive a gift card.
  • TAKE ACTION by asking Congress to allocate funding to strengthen families and protect kids during this time.
  • Check out ChildWelfareCOVID.org for more information on advocacy efforts and resources for families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • For additional information on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the child welfare system, check out our Making Kids Count Podcast episodes on the DCBS workforce, foster care families and agencies, and youth in or transitioning out of foster care.
  • Whether you are a parent or caregiver–or someone who wants to lend a helping hand to families in our community–check out ideas for reducing stress, managing the chaos at home, and having fun with your family from our partners at the Kosair Charities Face It Movement.

View our COVID-19 and Kentucky Kids webpage to stay up-to-date on ongoing efforts.