Bevin, state leaders ask nonprofit, faith communities for help in fixing foster care system at summit

03/12/2017 03:00 PM

FRANKFORT — Gov. Matt Bevin and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services appealed to nonprofit and religious leaders for their help in finding permanent homes for Kentucky’s 8,000 foster youth Friday.

Bevin and others spoke to about 250 at the Summit to Save Our Children, held at the Administrative Office of the Courts, stressing the need to help children who are in the state’s care at no fault of their own.

Vicki Yates Brown Glisson, secretary of CHFS, called Kentucky’s foster children “victims of circumstance,” with drugs a contributing factor in more than 70 percent of cases. Other causes include poverty, incarcerated parents and poor health, she said.

However, she said the state can’t resolve issues with foster care on its own.

Foster youth and adoption have been focal points for Bevin since taking office. He again shared his family’s experience with the state as they unsuccessfully sought to adopt an 11-year-old foster daughter. The state reasoned that the Bevins already had five children and couldn’t take care of the girl, and the family later adopted four children from Ethiopia.

The governor teared up during his remarks, telling the crowd that with 6,000 churches in Kentucky, every foster child ready for adoption shouldn’t have trouble finding a home.

“There should not be any child in Kentucky able to be adopted, ready to be adopted, waiting to be adopted who does not have a home,” said Bevin, flanked by first lady Glenna Bevin. “There just should not be.”

The audience heard about ways they could help foster youth, such as holding duffel bag donation drives so children don’t have to pack their belongings in garbage bags.

The Rev. Dr. DeForest Soaries Jr., of Somerset, N.J., applauded Bevin’s efforts in addressing the state’s foster care system. Soaries helped spearhead similar action in New Jersey, which he said opened his eyes a little more to the complex and sometimes frightening world of foster care.

For example, Soaries said he confronted the issue of “boarder babies” in New Jersey, where parents would check into hospitals under false names, give birth and abandon the child.

Kentucky, he said, “will not only be known for horses and basketball.”

“But now Kentucky will lead the nation in taking care of the needs of the most vulnerable children that we have,” he said.

Speaking to reporters after the event, Bevin says he expects to see big changes in the state’s foster care system ahead.

“We’re going to fix this problem,” he said. “We’re going to get it done. I’m confident. I truly know the people of Kentucky are good people.”

An announcement on Bevin’s adoption “czar” will likely come this week, the governor said during Friday’s gathering. He first revealed the position in his State of the Commonwealth address last month.


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