Kentucky Youth Advocates celebrates the following as wins for Kentucky kids in the 2012 General Assembly.

$21 million to reduce social worker caseloads – In response to the high rates of child deaths due to abuse and neglect in Kentucky, Governor Beshear proposed a $21 million increase over the next two years to hire 300 additional state social workers. The final budget passed by the Kentucky General Assembly retained this funding, so new social workers will soon be hired to reduce caseloads and more effectively work to reduce child deaths and near deaths due to abuse and neglect.

SB 213 – The passage of SB 213 allows foster care youth at age 18 to have a full year to decide whether to stay in the care of the state until they turn 21. Many foster care youth felt the previous time period of six months was not enough time to make this crucial life decision. The bill also changes the name of the process from “recommitting” to “transitional living supports” to take away any negative connotations associated with staying in the care of the state after age 18.

HB 168 –The successful passage of HB 168 prohibits superintendents from assigning teachers or staff to an alternative program as the result of a disciplinary action. This bill moves toward ensuring that the more than 45,000 youth in district-operated alternative programs receive a quality education like their peers in a traditional school.

HCR 129 – The passage of House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 129 during the 2012 General Assembly creates a taskforce which will take an in-depth look at a number of aspects of the juvenile justice system, including the practice of locking up youth for misbehaviors like skipping school and running away. Kentucky incarcerates youth at the second highest rate in the nation for such misbehaviors, even though incarceration is an expensive and ineffective way to address the issue. Other areas to be addressed by the taskforce include the treatment of youth with special needs, children age 10 and under being charged with offenses, and children’s exposure to domestic violence. The taskforce will provide recommendations for improving the juvenile justice system in preparation for the 2013 legislative session.

SB 110 –The successful passage of SB 110 encourages more schools to open up their facilities to the community by extending the same protections from liability that they have during the school day if someone gets hurt while on school property after school hours. This will ultimately help reduce obesity as community members will have more places to exercise.