Louisville, KY – New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that Kentucky continues to have the highest rate in the nation of children in the care of relatives. In 2016-2018, nine percent of Kentucky children were being raised by a relative, which is more than double the national rate of four percent.
“When Kentucky children cannot remain safely with their parents – due to parental substance abuse or incarceration, military deployment or death of a parent, or experiencing child maltreatment – grandparents, aunts, and uncles across the commonwealth are stepping up to provide a safe and loving home. And that has become even more true as the addiction crisis permeates communities,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.
The latest data shows the number of children being raised by a relative nearly doubled from 53,000 children in 2013-2015 to 96,000 children in 2016-2018. While the data doesn’t say what brought these children into the care of relatives, we know that most are in informal situations that did not involve the Department for Community Based Services’ (DCBS) child protection staff. Approximately 15,000 children are placed in formal kinship care by DCBS due to suspected abuse or neglect. Excluded from these numbers are an additional 1,500 children in relative foster care, in which children removed from their homes by DCBS are placed with relatives or close family friends who are licensed foster parents.
“As an advocate for relative caregivers and their families, I’ve heard from thousands of grandparents and great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, many of who are draining their savings to provide the most basic of needs for the children they are caring for due to parental addiction or incarceration. These folks try with all their hearts to keep sibling groups together at such personal sacrifice. They are our quiet heroes who must be recognized and celebrated. All they want is to be able to provide for the most basic needs of Kentucky’s vulnerable children. We must connect these families with the supports they need and deserve,” said Norma Hatfield, a grandmother raising grandchildren and advocate from Hardin County.
“The landscape on kinship care in Kentucky is complex and mixed. On one hand, caregivers and their families have seen victories this year as the Cabinet for Health and Family Services began implementation of the D.O. v Glisson court decision on relative foster care payments, and as the Kentucky General Assembly allocated funding in the state budget to provide financial supports for relative caregivers. We have seen the value the Cabinet places on relatives providing a safe home for kin children and also a renewed commitment to supporting those relatives from the new leadership. And yet on the other hand, for a lot of caregivers these wins are still just plans that have not yet translated into palpable changes in their homes. Knowing the Governor’s commitment to fundamental child welfare transformation, we need to see clear communication, effective processes, and immediate help where it matters. These families deserve no less,” said Dr. Brooks.
Kentucky Youth Advocates believes all children deserve to be safe, healthy, and secure. As THE independent voice for Kentucky’s children, we work to ensure policymakers create investments and policies that are good for children. Learn more at kyyouth.org.