Parental substance abuse, incarceration, serious physical and mental illness, and disability are contributing to a massive shift in who is caring for children in the U.S., especially in Kentucky.
According to Kentucky Youth Advocates, the Commonwealth has the highest rate of children in the care of relatives in the country. The Kinship Families Coalition of Kentucky says 56,000 Kentuckians are being raised by grandparents.
Continuity of care within the family is less traumatic, and provides for fewer educational disruptions, and fewer behavioral problems than foster care. There are also significant cost-savings to taxpayers when kin raise children.
Since April of 2013, no new families have been able to participate in the State's Kinship Care Program, which provides modest financial support to relatives who are raising children. Funding was frozen and has not been restored. The General Assembly again failed to act in the 2016 budget session. That should change.
Grandparents and other relatives in the Commonwealth who do not hold legal custody by way of formal adoption or guardianship, are not necessarily allowed to be involved in the grandchild's care in the eyes of educators and medical providers. It's important that the state inform caregivers of their best legal options.
The tragic opiod epidemic that has ravaged Kentucky is an even stronger reason for encouraging kinship care.
Grandparents are stepping up to the plate for children. Kentucky would be wise to stand up for them.
I'm Allison Russell, and that's my point of view.
Allison Russell is an attorney for Goldberg Simpson.
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