Kinship caregivers, state leaders, advocates talk issues during summit
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – Dozens of kinship caregivers, child welfare stakeholders, policy makers, and advocates from across Kentucky virtually gathered Thursday for the Kinship Coalition Virtual Summit.
Two years after the federal Family First Act implementation, over a year out from a global pandemic, a lawsuit that rose to the level of the Supreme Court, and several years of policy changes related to supports for relative caregivers necessitate an intentional reflection and a look forward.
The Kinship Families Coalition of Kentucky and Kentucky Youth Advocates hosted the Virtual Summit to intentionally reflect on the landscape of kinship care at the state and national level and look ahead to an action agenda to support the best outcomes for all kinship and fictive kin families.
“While kinship care helps to relieve trauma children often face when removed from their home due to safety concerns, it can pose considerable financial, legal, and emotional challenges for caregivers. This summit is happening at an opportune time to connect on the current state of kinship care in the Commonwealth and collaborate with advocates and policymakers to ensure kinship families have the resources and support needed to thrive,” said Norma Hatfield, president of the Kinship Families Coalition of Kentucky.
Kentucky has the second highest rate in the nation of children being raised by kin, with more than 75,000 children living with a relative or close family friend who is not a licensed foster parent.
At the Virtual Summit, attendees heard remarks from Governor Andy Beshear in honor of proclaiming September as Kinship Care Awareness Month. Marta Miranda-Straub, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services, joined the summit.
“Kinship and fictive kin play a crucial role in caring for the most vulnerable of our Kentucky kids. We at DCBS recognize their inherent value and are committed to providing the resources to ensure that child well-being is fully supported. Kinship families deserve our continuous recognition, and we at DCBS are grateful for their critical role in building a 21st century child welfare system. We are honored to walk alongside you and learn from you, today and every day, well beyond Kinship Awareness Month,” said Commissioner Miranda-Straub.
Attendees also heard youth leaders share their stories of growing up in kinship care and from a series of state and national speakers, including:
- Norma Hatfield, president of the Kinship Families Coalition of Kentucky
- Sharon L. McDaniel, founder, president and CEO of A Second Chance, Inc. and trustee of Casey Family Programs
- Marta Miranda-Straub, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services
- State Representative Kimberly Poore Moser, Chair of Health & Family Services Committee
- State Representative Joni Jenkins, Minority Floor Leader
- Eltuan Dawson, Youth Advocate
- Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates
“As Chair of the House Health and Family Services Committee, I have heard the heart wrenching stories of parental addiction that often lead to children entering a kinship or fictive kin setting – and I know that is just one of many examples of when these caregivers selflessly step up for children in their lives. My colleagues in the Kentucky House of Representatives and Senate have made strides to support these families, but we know there is more that can be done. I stand ready to champion these families in the halls of Frankfort,” said Representative Moser.
As a follow up to the Virtual Summit, the Kinship Families Coalition of Kentucky will host conversations with support groups across the Commonwealth and discuss what priorities still need to be addressed.
“Much like Kentucky kids count on their grandparent or close family friend to step up to care for them every day, kinship and fictive kin families count on their leaders in Frankfort to make state policy changes and budget investments to ensure their family can thrive. As the Commonwealth takes the next steps to transform the child welfare system and to ensure an equitable and expansive pandemic recovery, our kinship families must be prioritized in those efforts,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.