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Celebrating 2021 Face It Policy Wins for Kids

By Cortney Downs, Kentucky Youth Advocates

With the 2021 legislative session behind us, Face It partners can celebrate critical policy and budget wins for kids and reflect on the unique challenges presented this year.

The 30-day session required legislators to address the urgent needs of those negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; answer the calls for racial justice and equity; and pass a one-year continuation budget. Affirming our belief that children are a non-partisan issue, the Governor and the Kentucky General Assembly demonstrated their commitment to children who have experienced maltreatment by passing critical legislation that supports, intervenes, and protects some of the most vulnerable children in our communities.

Let’s start with the Face It policy win:

 – HB 472, sponsored by Rep. Bechler, extends the criminal statute of limitations for misdemeanor sex offenses from five years after their 18th birthday to ten years after their 18th This law went into effect immediately and is retroactive within the ten-year timeframe. In other words, if a 24-year-old missed the previous five-year statute of limitations they now have until their 28th birthday to file charges.

The 2021 budget wins will ensure new and continued funding to support evidence-based and research-informed programs and critical services for children and families impacted by or at risk of abuse:

 – $7 million in continued funding for the HANDS (Health Access Nurturing Development Services) program.

 – Nearly $1.5 million in continued funding for Children’s Advocacy Centers, Rape Crisis Centers and Domestic Violence Agencies statewide.

 – $20 million allocated to the Department of Community Based Services for prevention and family preservation services.

We also applaud the passage of several bills that take necessary steps to protect children and prevent maltreatment online and in person:

 – HB 254, sponsored by Rep. Fleming, enhances the penalty for possessing or viewing child sexual abuse materials involving children ages twelve and under to a Class C felony. It also enhances the penalty for distributing these materials to a Class C felony for the first offense and a Class B for every subsequent offense.

 – SB 64, sponsored by Sen. Kerr and Sen. Carroll, criminalizes communications between an adult and an adult intermediary who they believe to be a minor. The penalty is enhanced to a Class C felony if the person believes they are communicating with someone under the age of 12.

 – SB 66, sponsored by Sen. Schickel, creates background check requirements for youth camp volunteers and employees. Additionally, this law prohibits youth camps from hiring, contracting with or using volunteers who have plead guilty to a criminal offense against a minor or who has a substantiated case of abuse or neglect.

We would like to thank the dedicated members of the Face It policy team and all of our committed partners who reached out to their state legislators, testified in Frankfort, or engaged in other ways to advance these priorities forward in 2021.

As we begin planning for the 2022 legislative session and expanding our focus to include supports for victims of intimate partner violence, families impacted by substance use, and funding for Child Abuse Pediatricians and their forensic teams, we remain optimistic that legislators will continue prioritizing the needs of vulnerable children and the professionals who support them. And that advocates across the Commonwealth will join us in preventing and ending child abuse so that every child can grow up happy, healthy, and hopeful.

*Photo courtesy of Kentucky Youth Advocates