Kinship Testimony in Frankfort

On October 26, 2017, Norma Hatfield, a Kinship Care Program participant, and Senator Dennis Parrett presented testimony to the Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Resources on the reinstatement of the Kentucky Kinship Care Program. At this time, Senator Dennis Parrett has pre-filed a bill to include the Kinship Care Program in the statute to provide financial and other supports to relative caregivers. An established, implemented, and maintained program for kinship care would provide a more permanent placement with a qualified relative for a child that would otherwise be placed in foster care due to abuse, neglect, or death of both parents.

In the 2017 Kentucky General Assembly, Norma delivered thousands of stories from caregivers to legislators and the Governor. Throughout the Budget Review Subcommittee meeting, Senator Parrett praised Norma for her tireless work to advocate for support for kinship caregiver, including delivering stories to leaders. Norma urges the legislature to reinstate the Kinship Care Program for the more than 70,000 children who live with relative caregivers in the state of Kentucky- a number that will continue to grow.

Norma shared several caregivers’ stories of financial and emotional hardships when kids who have experienced abuse and neglect are placed with them. Norma argues that these children should never feel that they are the reason their relatives have lost everything they have. Additionally, Norma says the opioid crisis has a huge impact on kids and relatives caring for them. Relatives need supports to care for them too. Norma stated Kentucky is not taking full responsibility for all innocent victims, which are our children.

The Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) Commissioner Johnson stated the 6thCircuit Court decision will impact around 350 children, yet implementation is still to be determined. On October 10th, the Supreme Court denied the appeal of the 6th Circuit Court’s January ruling to allow relatives providing foster care for children to seek payments in the same way as licensed foster care providers. This means grandparents and other relatives caring for children who are the responsibility of the state are eligible for foster care funds. Commissioner Johnson noted the Kentucky Kinship Care Program can pick up where the foster care ruling from the Supreme Court leaves off. Notably, the cost of the foster care system and the kinship care program were mentioned. The kinship care program cost roughly $300 per month versus foster care which costs $720 per month. Therefore, the kinship care program costs less than foster care and kinship care is proven to be better off for children since they remain with their relatives. In addition, Commissioner Johnson mentioned other supports DCBS has in place for kinship caregivers, like child care assistance.

The Supreme Court decision and the reinstatement of the Kinship Care Program are great steps forward to ensure that Kentucky kinship caregivers have access to the financial resources needed to provide care for Kentucky’s children. The Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Resources thanked Norma Hatfield and Senator Parrett for their advocacy and passion for the Kinship Care Program.

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