Lawmakers look into speeding up background checks for foster parents

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Portable fingerprint machines may be a way Kentucky can speed up background checks on potential foster parents.

Pamela Priddy, speaking to the General Assembly’s Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee on Wednesday, said getting results on background checks can be a tedious process. She said prospective foster parents must travel to a Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) office, where the fingerprints are taken.

“Usually it takes us, sometimes more, sometimes less, 30 days to get those results back,” said Priddy, who represents Necco, a private agency that provides foster families with resources, education and support services in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Georgia.

In Ohio, a portable fingerprint machine transmits directly to the state allowing foster parents to know “usually within an hour” if their application can proceed, Priddy said.

She stated that the benefits of portable FBI checks are increased safety, less time and money. She added, if the fingerprints are not usable for some reason, they know immediately. In Kentucky, they won’t know for 30 days.

Heather Wagers with the Kentucky Justice Cabinet agreed with Priddy that an electronic background system is needed, before they can speed up the process like in Ohio.

DCBS Deputy Commissioner Elizabeth Caywood said the committee should be looking for an online system to process foster parent applications and conduct background checks.

“It would be a more expedient process than that proposed by Necco,” said Caywood. “I think we could [set] this up in six to 12 months.”

Committee Chairman David Meade, R-Stanford, and an adoptive parent himself, said the committee is not ready to propose improvements to adoption or foster care laws for the 2020 General Assembly.

“We’re still gathering more data and information right now,” Meade said.

He said the hope is to provide funding for kinship care when the state budget is addressed next year.

“My opinion of the kinship care program is that we go to a program that offers a lot more services. Maybe not as much cash assistance as there used to be but transferring that into more services that helps those families and helps those children, as they transition through that process.”

DCBS has a website with information for those who wish to become foster parents. Go to kyfaces.ky.gov to find out more.

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