FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – A measure to improve Kentucky’s child welfare system is halfway through the legislative process after winning House approval.
The bill’s sponsor, House Speaker Pro Tem David Meade, R- Stanford, said while presenting it on the House floor, “Protecting the children in state care is one of the most sacred and important duties we have as legislators. Each year, the General Assembly takes meaningful steps to improve and strengthen our child welfare laws and 2021 is no exception. This legislation builds on our past legislative successes and continues to make significant changes for the betterment of Kentucky children.”
Meade noted provisions in the measure to ease the transition as children are placed with relatives and other fictive kin caregivers. They include a new requirement that the state‘s Cabinet for Health and Family Services provides information on becoming certified under the state’s foster care program, as well as the financial and support benefits that come with program participation. New caregivers would also receive a detailed packet that lists all types of supports available to relative and fictive kin caregivers.
“A great deal of credit needs to be given to Norma Hatfield and the Kinship Families Coalition of Kentucky for pointing out how great an impact meeting this basic need will make,” Meade stated. “Last year they issued the first handbook for kinship caregivers in state history. As a result, families across the state have an opportunity to tap into existing services that provide support for both them and the children in their care.”
Meade said it would also require the state to provide a one-time electronic benefit transfer card for each child placed with a relative or other fictive caregivers. The card, which has replaced the old food stamps system, is intended to help meet the immediate needs of children placed during a crisis situation.
“We know all too well that many of these children are removed from terrible circumstances with only the clothes on their back,” Meade added. “This provision allows us to use resources we already have access to in order to help make the transition less stressful.”
The bill also allows a foster parent to be a party to a court case in the termination of parental rights of a child in their care. Foster families would also be given first consideration for adoption after a child has been in their care for nine months under the proposed legislation. A relative search would begin within three months of placement in a foster home in order to expedite the child’s permanent placement.
House Bill 492 now heads to the Senate for consideration.