Friday, December 22, 2006

Bottom line: Increase funding for KY foster care system

READERS' FORUM; Praises decision on social workers
Louisville Courier-Journal, Feb. 28, 2006, pg. A9.

As a foster parent for the state of Kentucky, I was very pleased to hear that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services has decided to hold off on any restructuring until they have the opportunity to get feedback and suggestions from the social workers who work in the system every day. But I hope they do not stop there. I hope everyone involved in this process will take the time to read the report on Kentucky's child protective system that was released by the Kentucky Youth Advocates and the National Institute on Children, Youth & Families in January.

One of the report's key findings was that "the system is dramatically underfinanced, a chronic condition that has worsened in the last three years" and that "the current fiscal climate does not provide adequate funding in many important programmatic areas, leaving some abused and neglected children unprotected and denied permanent homes, which may have serious and possibly life-threatening consequences for children."

This report also notes that the number of children under DCBS (Department of Child-Based Services) supervision within their own homes increased 66 percent between 1999 and 2004, and the number of children removed from their biological homes increased 27 percent in that same time period. With more and more children coming into the system, there is no adequate way to fix it without also providing more funding.

If we truly care about the children in our state, we need to adequately fund child protective services so that this agency can give the help to families that it is capable of giving. For those who are more driven by the bottom line than by a sense of responsibility to meet the needs of children in our state, I would also argue that in the long term, there is a financial payoff in putting the needed resources into this system now.

As foster parents, my husband and I have seen how children's lives can be dramatically turned around when removed from a situation where their basic needs were not being met. We have also seen how temporary removal, coupled with needed assistance to the parents (i.e., parenting classes, drug rehabilitation, job training), can bring an entire family back to a state of health, where its members then become productive members of society.

When these interventions are not done, many of these parents and their children will continue to be a financial drain on the state for years to come, through incarceration, welfare assistance, burdens on the health care system, and any number of other ways that happen when a person is unable to function effectively in society.

As much as I admire and respect the social workers who do such a difficult job day in and day out, I believe the decision-makers in Frankfort need to be reminded that ultimately this whole issue is not about the social workers and other state employees. This should be about meeting the needs of children in the state of Kentucky.

The conclusion of the report reminds us, "A community of people, like the commonwealth of Kentucky, ultimately is measured by how well it protects its most vulnerable people.... Isn't it time, once and for all, for abused and neglected children to get the attention they deserve, to put their interests above those of adults?"

I hope the leaders of the cabinet and the legislators will take this opportunity to consider what really needs to happen to fix a system that is currently stretched to the max, even as the numbers of children in care continue to rise. Morally, it is the right thing to do for the children of our state. Financially, it is also a sound investment that will more than pay for itself in the years to come.

Louisville 40214


Post a Comment

<< Home