Cabinet officials look to improve Kentucky's adoption process

06/19/2017 04:35 PM

FRANKFORT – Department for Community Based Services Commissioner Adria Johnson told members of the House Working Group on Adoption Monday that while some progress has been made in the whole foster care and adoption process, work still needs to be done to make the process easier for the child, as well as foster parents and adoptive parents.

Johnson told the task force that there are some significant barriers to achieving timely permanency for children in foster care.

“Availability and accessibility to families of services, difficulty in locating parents, difficulty in establishing paternity, court delays, the workforce stability that we as an agency are experiencing that do contribute to delays in permanency,” Johnson said.

Johnson pointed out that the average age of a child entering out of home treatment has dropped from 7.4 years old in 2011 to 6.8 in 2016, as well as other challenges the system faces.

“We do know that we don’t have an adequate base of resource homes across the state to serve some of our diverse populations and again, timeliness of us being able to recruit, retain and certify homes is challenged across the state and part of that is driven by a lack of a dedicated workforce,” Johnson said.

Another challenge for DCBS is the rising number of Child Protective Services caseloads.

As of June 5, 2017, CPS had 8,355 current cases, 6,973 past due cases and 13,841 ongoing request/agency cases.

The total CPS staff is 1,153, which is 229 under capacity. As of June 4, 2017 there were 8,527 children in foster care in the state of Kentucky, which has risen steadily over the past five years.

Since 2012, there has been an 18 percent increase in the number of foster care children in the system which has resulted in 1,318 more children. On average, there is an increase of 20 additional children each month.

“You know, I am very concerned because historically over the summer months, we always see a ramp up of children coming into care, you know for whatever reason, children aren’t in school, stressors and families are rising and sometimes families’ abilities to cope isn’t there, so we know we see an increase of children coming into state’s custody when there are periods of school being out,” Johnson said. “What’s alarming is that over the past 3 months, we’ve seen an increase of 523 children in custody and we’re just now hitting summer break.”

The number of children adopted in Kentucky has increased steadily every year since 2012.

In 2012, 700 children were adopted. In 2016, that number rose to 1,135 — an increase of nearly 60 percent.

When Gov. Matt Bevin took office in December 2015, he acknowledged that one of his goals was to see reforms which would allow Kentucky to be the best model for foster care in the United States.

Johnson says that those reforms began with the training required for prospective foster parents.

“We heard repeatedly from foster families that the training is cumbersome, and so we did look at the initial training required and streamlined that and reduced that from 32 hours to 15,” Johnson said.

Some other reforms include more intensive outreach to faith-based communities, database enhancements for Protection and Permanency workers are underway and the new platform will be completed in 2017.

In addition, DCBS service regions are meeting to align regional practices to be more consistent across the state.

Looking ahead, Johnson sees a number of preliminary recommendations which would help everyone involved in the foster care and adoption process.

“When you look at the number of children coming into care, and the alarming trend that we’ve seen over the past three months, clearly I would like to stop the flood gates,” Johnson said. “So, looking at ways to shift resources and put more investment into in-home service provision will be key.”

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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