Statement by Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates
LOUISVILLE, KY – In his far-ranging State of the Commonwealth Address, the Governor raised some key issues related to the well-being of Kentucky’s kids – from health to education to community safety to workforce. As well as the ongoing impacts of crises that Kentucky’s kids have lived through across the Commonwealth – from natural disasters to a global pandemic.
First, I am pleased to see that he is calling for changes in the juvenile justice system. That arena is not just problematic – it is on fire symbolically and sometimes literally. As a state, we have to reject the rising tide of voices advocating a return to regressive policies of twenty years ago. Instead, the Governor and General Assembly must architect a new system – a revolutionized system.
We need a juvenile justice system that holds kids accountable to be sure – but a system that also ensures creative prevention strategies, community-based interventions when appropriate, detention facilities that offer high-quality behavioral and mental health services, educational supports, and a quality assurance to every kid who finds him or herself in the justice system regardless of zip code. That means fresh eyes on the workforce, facilities, programing, and community collaboratives.
The other kid arena that stood out was the Governor’s spotlight on early childhood education. There is no question – quality early childhood education for all four-year-olds in Kentucky is a commendable and aspirational goal. However, it must be done in a balanced and intentional way that does not decimate the infrastructure of child care for infants and toddlers, or overwhelm the resources of the public school system. Creating partnerships between our public school system and our high-quality child care programs will utilize the resources that Kentucky already has in place, prevent the collapse of the child care infrastructure, and support working parents that need consistent, year-round child care.
Creating a revolution in juvenile justice and building an infrastructure for an expanded early childhood system are big and bold goals. But they are, in fact, attainable if the Governor, Senate President, and Speaker of the House drill down to find those common ground and common-sense threads that can bind all of us together.
Learn more about the 2023 Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children state policy priorities at kyyouth.org/blueprintky/.
About Kentucky Youth Advocates
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 www.kyyouth.org.
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