Mara Powell

Jeffersontown, KY – There was no more profound point in the Governor’s address than his clarion pledge to fundamentally reform Kentucky’s child welfare system. The commitment to tackle issues from foster care to adoption, from child abuse to family supports, can be a game changer for the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable kids. And opportunities abound in efforts like family preservation, kinship care, and the transition out of foster care. Making that commitment a reality will require legislative action, Executive Branch leadership, and community-based engagement by faith communities, nonprofits, and caring neighbors.

An encouraging reminder that kid issues are multi-generational in nature came in the Governor’s commitment to continuing criminal justice reform, building on successes such as expanding expungement and “banning the box” for state government jobs. Those are the kinds of efforts that need to be acted upon if we are to really get to the core issues that affect and afflict families in the state.

We are inspired by the Governor’s thoughtful approach to core reform of K-12 through postsecondary education. A growing emphasis on career preparation, charter school roll-outs, slashing bureaucratic obstacles to student achievement, and common-sense changes in accountability form an education agenda centered on what’s best for kids.

As expected, the Governor appropriately spent significant time around revenue and budget streams. That is a proposition marked by complexity and politics, and there will be plenty of time to tackle specifics. But it is essential that the Governor and legislative leaders remember that the state budget is really a statement of values more than simply a balance sheet. And that statement of values can and must honor children and families through proven strategies like a state Earned Income Tax Credit and increasing eligibility for child care supports. Those are the kinds of investments that not only help moms and dads but also provide a documented return on investment.

The Governor’s address holds real promise for the youngest of Kentuckians; his remarks were pragmatic and aspirational. But as is the case in every State of Commonwealth address, the real verdict will be on actionable results. Let’s hope that the Governor’s 2018 address resonates about the real reforms that began in child welfare, criminal justice, education, and family economic well-being.