FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Kentucky’s sweeping reforms in adoption and foster care appear to be working, according to one of the authors of the legislation passed by the 2018 General Assembly.
Rep. David Meade, R-Stanford, who co-chairs the Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee created by House Bill 1, told Kentucky Today, “(From) What I have seen, it has been successful so far in the court system.”
Provisions of the bill include speeding up the court process and Meade said the new timelines are already being implemented by family court judges, even though the new laws have only been in effect a few months.
Still, he cautioned, “It’s going to take some time to see where we stand with everything and get this process rolling.”
The new committee also is tasked with coming up with any changes need to tweak the legislation, but Meade says it’s too early to say what might be recommended for the 2019 session.
“We need to see how House Bill 1 is going to play out, give it a little more time to get some feedback from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the judges, foster parents and others in the system. But there are some things we can do outside the timelines set out in the legislation.”
He cites as an example making the process faster for family members and for foster parents who have children in state control looking to adopt.
Another involves parents who have adopted before, or are in the foster care program. “There’s no reason for them to go through the entire process again and again, when they’ve already been through all the home studies and background checks,” Meade said.
He also believes more can be done with preventative services and the aging out process, which is when children leave the foster care program.
“We can also work with the Cabinet to speed up child abuse and neglect checks,” Meade said. “That’s one thing we’re hearing right now. We have foster parents on the waiting list, they have all their training, they’re just waiting for that abuse and neglect check to come back. If we can work with the Cabinet to speed that up, I think that will help.”
He also said they need to look at how to prevent children from re-entering the foster care system, once they’ve been reunited with their parents.
“Holding those families together, instead of those children coming back into care several times.”
More work on drug addiction programs needs to take place, according to Meade, “especially with those children being born drug addicted. I think we need to go further with that, as well as getting mothers into drug treatment, before their children are removed from them.”
Along with that, he wants tougher penalties on women who give birth to multiple drug-addicted children. “One of the worst things you can do to a child is cause them to be born drug addicted, because of the torture and the torment they go through physically, once they are born.”
Meade would also like to see enhancements to the kinship care program, which he says is a Republican Caucus priority, which includes reimbursing family members for taking care of other family members’ children.