The Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee met last week and heard testimony from the Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Community Based Services about the implementation of Senate Bill 8, a policy priority of the Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children and the Kosair Charities Face It Movement. SB 8 was sponsored by Senator Julie Raque Adams and reformed pieces of the child welfare system. More importantly, SB 8 expanded access and opportunities for young people and families involved with the child welfare system.

The State Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Board has been changed to the State Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board.

On April 14th the newly formed board met to dissolve the previous board and welcomed new members, including Senator Julie Raque Adams and Representative David Meade. The board will meet at least quarterly, and all meetings will be open to the public. The next meeting will be held on August 23rd at the Office of the Attorney General, and the group will review subcommittee structure, recommendations for the annual report, and discuss grant applications among other topics.

The definition of fictive kin has been expanded to allow people with significant relationships to family members to care for kids from birth to age 12 months.

Since the launch of the relative placement service array, which created a pathway for kinship caregivers to be approved as foster parents to receive additional benefits and supports, DCBS has seen a sizeable increase in the number of young people placed in relative care. The data presented at the CWOAC meeting showed that in August 2016 only 4.3% of kids in care were placed with relatives, but as of May 2022 more than 17% of kids in care have been placed with relatives. With the expanded definition of fictive kin, DCBS hopes to see this percentage continue to increase.

The definition of abused or neglected child has been updated to clearly differentiate between neglect and poverty.

In Kentucky, 17% of the population lives below the poverty line – defined as a family of four having an annual income of $27,575 or less – which is the 5th highest rate in the nation. Between 2016 and 2022, DCBS data shows that almost 50% of cases that were substantiated or found to be in need of services were for basic neglect or risk of harm/neglect. With the changes made through SB 8, neglect is clearly defined as not providing for a child when the parents are financially able to do so or are “offered financial or other means to do so.” DCBS hopes that through continued education for their staff and community stakeholders on systemic poverty they will see a decrease in the number of neglect cases received.

SB 8 also expanded services and supports for children and youth with a foster care experience.

The Department of Community Based Services has updated their policies, regulations, and websites, and have worked with Voices of the Commonwealth to educate communities, advocates, and stakeholders about the following changes:

  • Family preservation services are now available to children who are at moderate risk of removal. Previously, only children who were at imminent risk of removal were eligible for those services. With this change, DCBS will remain in alignment with the Federal Family First Prevention Services Act and it will allow them to intervene much earlier and prevent more children from experiencing significant trauma.
  • The Foster Care Bill of Rights has been expanded to give young people the right to access vital documentation, request placement settings they’re comfortable with, raise their own children, and participate in their siblings or half-siblings court proceedings whenever possible.
  •  Young people are now able to recommit to care up to two times before their 20th birthday. SB 8 further clarified that young people only need to submit their request before that deadline, it does not need to be approved by then.