Cabinet officials look at ways to better serve the state's foster care needs

06/14/2018 02:28 PM

FRANKFORT – How to better serve the state’s foster care community was the main topic of discussion in Frankfort as the Program Review and Investigations Committee heard from the new Department of Community Based Services, or DCBS, acting commissioner Elizabeth Caywood.

Caywood has 19 years of DCBS experience, with twelve of those years having been spent in the Commissioner’s Office as an Internal Policy Analyst IV and Executive Advisor.

Most recently, Caywood served as Chief of Staff for Commissioner Adria Johnson, who resigned this week after serving in the position since January 2016.

“I’m very familiar with the initiatives that she had planned and I plan to lead those and fulfill those,” Caywood said.

Caywood highlighted many difficulties and challenges of the job.

“Just the complexity of the work,” Caywood said. “We’ve seen a record number of children out of home care and that is very troubling to me. I want to address that immediately.”

Caywood is thankful for the passing of House Bill 1 during the 2018 General Assembly session which addressed many of the challenges and issues related to foster care.

“It was unprecedented legislation that really focused on timely permanency for children,” Caywood said. “I don’t think since the late 1990’s, the state has seen anything like it.”

Committee co-chair, Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, quizzed Caywood about adding additional personnel as a result of the passing of HB 1.

Kay Meyers, of Lexington, who is raising her two and a half year old grandson, voiced her frustration with committee members about how currently, she and her husband Charlie are not eligible for aid, even though the child’s mother suffered from opioid abuse and could not take the newborn home from the hospital.

“It’s very difficult to raise a child these days, it’s very expensive, it’s very, very taxing on the amount of money that it takes,” Meyers said. “I think the child is better with a grandparent than just saying, okay, go to the foster care program. We were actually refused to be able to get financial help simply because the baby did not go from the hospital into foster care immediately.”

Caywood said that she plans to look at ways through child welfare transformation efforts to possibly offer financial assistance to the growing number of grandparents like Kay and Charlie, who are essentially punished financially for taking care of the child immediately after birth.

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