Kentucky's foster care numbers"unacceptable"

08/20/2018 07:10 PM

FRANKFORT- Just over a month after a new law went into effect lawmakers heard from officials involved with the implementation of House Bill 1.

The Child Welfare Oversight Committee heard from members of the Department for Community Based Services and the Judicial Branch on the implementation of the measure. The wide ranging bill focused on overhauling the adoption and foster care system—it seeks to strengthen support to help keep families together by tightening the timeline for termination of parental rights. It establishes the Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee within the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, gives grandparents and other kinship providers more rights, and foster parents more input in the child welfare process.

The 2018-20 biennium budget increased funding to the department, allowing them to hire more personnel to work within the department—such as social workers. The budget included $14 million for the workforce but despite the increase in funding, more than 100 social worker positions lay vacant as well as the 230 newly created positions.

The money is also going toward retention of the workforce, a problem that the department is plagued with.

During the hearing, officials used the opportunity to update lawmakers on data surrounding cases, including the average workload a CPS worker averaged. The number has increased since December 2016, to workers handling between 19 to 33 cases. The amount of time it takes to reunite children with their families has also doubled. It’s something Department of Community Based Services Commissioner Eric Clark told lawmakers is “unacceptable”.

“The timeliness to permanency is too long. The case loads are too high. The number of children that are coming into “out of home care” is heartbreaking.” he told committee members.

Another area lawmakers focused on was kinship care. Officials provided an update to the ruling DO v. Glisson. Which required relative caregivers be treated like foster parents if the Department for Health and Family Services places the child. The ruling allows kinship providers to receive around $750 a month for caring for their relatives. But as of August 10th, of the 23,137 inquires, the department had only notified 1,012 relatives of eligibility. The payments have totaled around $2.6 million this fiscal year.

Lawmakers expressed concerns over the low eligibility findings. But the department maintained they were bound by regulations imposed on them to administer the funding.

“We are limited as an agency as far as our financial support. We have to do things within our appropriations.” said Elizabeth Caywood, Deputy Commissioner of Department of Community Based Services.

The department estimates they will spend about $8.5-9 million on payments to relatives through the end of the fiscal year .

Michon Lindstrom

Michon is a producer for Pure Politics. Michon comes to Kentucky from Springfield, Illinois where she served as the statehouse reporter for the NBC affiliate. During her time in the Land of Lincoln she covered the state’s two year budget impasse and the largest school funding overall in Illinois history. Pure Politics airs weeknights at 7 and 11:30 on Spectrum News. Follow Michon on Twitter at @MichonLindstrom or reach her by email at michon.lindstrom@charter.com

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