Statement by Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates
A Supreme Court ruling and a significant budget commitment from the Governor and General Assembly during the 2018 legislative session gave kinship caregivers across Kentucky unprecedented hope for a better tomorrow as they care for children. And yet, that hope has been displaced by uncertainty and confusion, frustration and a continued lack of sufficient support.
Two arenas must be addressed by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the Department of Community Based Services in the immediate if the promise of kinship care support is to be realized for these Kentucky families.
First, CHFS must implement a transparent and fair appeals process for those denied supports under the D.O. v Glisson court decision for relative foster care payments. This is especially important given the very narrow CHFS interpretation of the ruling. Families deserve a well-defined process to seek those supports and just as well of a defined process to appeal decisions that go against them. That is only fair to these families.
Secondly, there is no defined plan for the funding included in the state budget for kinship caregivers who don’t qualify for relative foster care payments. At a recent committee meeting, DCBS indicated that new supports for kinship caregivers with the funding included in the state budget wouldn’t be laid out until closer to the end of the year. Kinship givers are increasingly desperate and simply do not deserve a rollout that seems to have all the speed of molasses.
Both of these arenas are complex and complicated. Both of these arenas merit scrutiny and caution from CHFS. However, the time is long past for state leaders to step up for the kinship families who are stepping up for kids. This is a perfect opportunity for the new CHFS leadership, knowing the Governor’s commitment to fundamental child welfare reform, to invent a new chapter for these families marked by clear communication, effective processes, and immediate help where it matters.