Contact: Charles Siler
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NEW BILL EMPOWERS KENTUCKY COMMUNITIES TO HELP FAMILIES IN CRISIS
BILL CREATING FOSTER CARE ALTERNATIVE PASSES LEGISLATURE
Families experiencing a short-term crisis in Kentucky now have a new place to turn for help, their own communities, thanks to a bill just signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin that enjoyed nearly unanimous support in the Legislature. The bill is modeled after a program known as “Safe Families for Children” which has successfully helped tens of thousands of families across the country navigate temporary problems since 2002.
H420 creates a safe haven for children in need, providing a stable environment that shields them from neglect while their families resolve issues ranging from unemployment, homelessness, hospitalization, or even brief incarceration. One of the major things that makes this program different from foster care is that the parents retain full rights throughout the process and the state is uninvolved. This enables communities to address problems earlier than the state legally could, and it allows families to solve problems before they get out of control, resulting in faster family reunifications.
“Unfortunately, far too many Kentucky families struggle with challenges like job loss, homelessness, addiction, or some other crisis that results in their children having to enter the state foster care system,” said Rep. Jerry T. Miller (R – Dist. 36), lead author of HB 420 and a champion for Kentucky’s children.
“By the time our child welfare agencies can get involved, it’s often too late to prevent permanent removal of the children from the home. Many times, everything could’ve been prevented by providing parents with some badly needed short-term help. Having the option of working with a local volunteer family, one of their neighbors, to ensure their children will be well cared for allows parents peace of mind so they can get the help they need while keeping the family intact.”
While foster care is a vital tool in protecting Kentucky’s children, many social workers are burdened with huge and unmanageable caseloads, leaving children exposed. This bill will allow families in need to connect with trained and vetted host families to resolve their own problems, which will lighten the load for state social workers who can now focus more serious cases involving abusive neglect and physical or sexual abuse.
“Today families in Kentucky have more hope for a better tomorrow because we are putting faith in the power of the charitable spirit and sense of community that make our state great. Thanks to HB 420 and the work of groups like Safe Families for Children there are now more places for families to turn when life hits a rough patch,” said Kentucky First Lady Glenna Bevin, whose support was instrumental in the bill’s passage.
“This legislation takes the fear out of asking for help when times get tough and empowers more families to face challenges head on, wrapped in the love and support of their neighbors. Most importantly, fewer children will endure the trauma of being removed from their family into foster care, and will return to a safer, more stable home much sooner.”
Supporting Kentucky families has always been a bi-partisan priority in the Legislature, and the overwhelming passage of HB 420 demonstrates what can be achieved when everyone works together.
“I’m so proud to be standing up alongside First Lady Glenna Bevin for Kentucky’s children and families in need of a helping hand, and I’m glad we’re standing up for those who want to step in and serve others in their community,” said Rep. Tom Burch (D – Dist. 30), one of the bill’s cosponsors.
Local child and family advocates also celebrated the bill’s signing, excited that they now have a legal framework for their support of those in need in their communities.
“We are very excited for the Safe Families movement in Kentucky,” said Darren Washausen, Executive Director of Orphan Care Alliance, which implements Safe Families in Kentucky. “This law is one more example of the growing relationship between the faith community and state to better care for children and families.”
Currently, Orphan Care Alliance operates Safe Families for Children in the Louisville metro area, and will soon launch programs in Shepherdsville, Campbellsville, Lexington, and Covington.
Joining Rep. Miller were co-sponsors Rep. Tom Burch (D – Dist. 30) and Rep. Thomas Kerr (R – Dist. 64). HB 420 enjoyed broad bi-partisan support, securing a 94-0 vote in the House and a 37-1 vote in the Senate.