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An Update on the Implementation of Comprehensive Changes to Kentucky’s Child Welfare System

By Cortney Downs

In the 2018 legislative session House Bill 1, a Face It policy priority, was signed into law, creating several changes to the Kentucky child welfare system. This bipartisan and comprehensive plan proposes significant changes to the adoption and foster care system to significantly strengthen how Kentucky supports kids and families who have been affected by abuse and neglect. Currently, those policy and practice changes are being implemented within the court system, Department for Community Based Services, and agencies and organizations that serve children and families to streamline services and produce better outcomes.

For a comprehensive look at House Bill 1, view detailed explanations of each component and why they’re good for kids here.

House Bill 1 also included the development of the Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee. This 10-member legislative committee is responsible for reviewing, analyzing, and providing oversight on a variety of child welfare-related issues including child abuse and neglect, adoption, foster care, and dependency. The first meeting took place on Monday, August 20 in Frankfort and featured presentations from the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Department for Community Based Services.

An important takeaway is DCBS’ commitment to a “Kentucky Child Welfare Transformation” through the creation of nine work groups who focus on everything from work force development, youth transitioning out of foster care, prevention, and relative supports and placement. These ongoing meetings between partners, stakeholders, and DCBS will support the reorganization of the Cabinet for Health and Families Services and continually assess how to develop and implement plans. Additionally, DCBS has committed to working closely with stakeholders to inform what the programs will look like.

You can watch their presentation in full and learn more about their next steps in the process of fully implementing House Bill 1 here.

Though it can be difficult to wait for each component to roll out, it’s important to remember the significance and size of this undertaking. In addition to specific policy changes, continued oversight and evaluation measures will be put in place to ensure long term support for children and families. As Dr. Terry Brooks of Kentucky Youth Advcotes said in a statement following the signing of House Bill 1: “Its impact will be profound and sweeping. Every Kentucky kid deserves a family and [House Bill] 1 can make that happen.”

And, as always, your voice matters!  If you’re a kinship caregiver, foster parents, or someone who has been engaged in the child welfare system, please contact your legislators or the legislators who make up this committee as House Bill implementation continues.