Mara Powell

Statement by Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates

Jeffersontown, KY – The Cabinet for Health and Family Services recently presented on a federal report of Kentucky’s child welfare system’s outcomes.

The report findings are about neither former Governor Steve Beshear nor Governor Matt Bevin. It is about a system that needs a revolution and not a tweak. It reminds us that we cannot wait any longer if we are serious about protecting kids and strengthening families.

The report highlights the balance that is so hard, and yet so critical, to achieve in the child welfare system. While there is a myriad of lessons to be learned from this report, Kentucky Youth Advocates sees three key takeaways.

  • The report clearly indicates that we need to do a better job protecting kids when they are in the home through higher quality assessments and better caseworker protocols on visits.
  • On the flip side, it challenges us to do a better job of keeping children who are removed from their home connected to family.
  • The report underscores the need for workforce development in terms of recruitment, retention, and quality assurances.

The essential question, then, is so what? As the Governor and General Assembly talk about tax and budget issues, there is a clear and present chance to match rhetoric with reality. You cannot begin to think about kids without thinking about the resource adequacy of the system – be that around supports for better practice, such as visitations and assessments, supports for families striving to stay together, or simple numbers of workers available to handle cases.

The child welfare system needs reform to be sure, in terms of structure and practice. But, it also needs more resources, if we as a state really want to protect kids and preserve families.

The Children and Family Services Review, prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau, details the findings of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ 2016 statewide assessment of services provided to children and families who are involved in the child welfare system, as well as a review of 65 individual child welfare cases, and focus group and stakeholder interviews who have involvement in the system.