Statement by Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director, Kentucky Youth Advocates
LOUISVILLE, KY – Today, the Kentucky Senate shrewdly passed over consideration of Senate Bill 40. The measure – dubbed as the “Parents’ Rights Protection Act” – is in reality a misguided measure that will jeopardize the safety and well-being of thousands of children living with caregivers who immediately step up to care for their vulnerable young kin and keep them out of the state’s custody.
While the definition of “parent” is established in SB 40 as, “the biological or adoptive mother or father of a child,” for the tens of thousands of children across Kentucky who reside in households without a parent, that definition does not apply to their situation. Approximately 67,000 children reside in households where their primary caregiver is a relative (kinship caregiver) or close family friend (fictive kin caregiver). And then there are the more than 9,000 children in foster care. The custody status of these children varies greatly as well – from temporary custody to limited Caregiver Authorization to verbal agreements with the parent to permanent custody. So, while the parent is not present in the home nor identified as the party responsible for raising the children, SB 40 would create a potentially hostile environment for families navigating their own definitions of “care, custody, and control” of a child.
Grandparents, aunts and uncles, godparents, and other caring adults live this complex reality daily as they step up to take care of Kentucky’s most vulnerable children. SB 40 would prohibit these caregivers from making critical decisions about the child’s mental or physical health and education, even if the biological parents are absent or unfit to render such decisions.
The Senate has thoughtfully honored fictive and relative caregivers and supported child victims of maltreatment through policy and budget commitments – this legislative session and in many years past. Which is why we are disheartened to see continued advancement of such a harmful measure that will surely impact thousands of children who’ve experienced abuse and neglect.
Stay up-to-date on Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children priorities and other bills that are good for kids on our Kentucky General Assembly Bill Tracker.
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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