FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- A panel of state lawmakers appointed by House Speaker Jeff Hoover to fix Kentucky’s adoption system got down to work Tuesday at the State Capitol.

“Our hope is to do what is best for the families and the children of this state,” said co-chair Rep. David Meade (R-Stanford) as the work group held its first meeting.

Gov. Matt Bevin has made adoption reform a priority.

Bevin said he and his wife Glenna adopted four international children after their application for a local adoption was tied up in red tape and ultimately denied because they already had five birth children.

At Tuesday's meeting, the work group first heard from family court judges and adoption attorneys. Judge Elaine Spainhour told lawmakers the most pressing need is money to hire more social workers.

“We've got social workers that have 40 families on their caseloads, and that is a time bomb looking for a place to go off,” Spainhour said.

But Meade will not commit to any new spending just yet.

“I'm not sure yet that we're ready to dive into the money situation and talk about the budget,” he told reporters.

But the committee's co-chair says with a budget session looming, that conversation eventually has to happen.

“There does seem to be a lot of interest on both sides of the aisle here in the House about putting kids first,” Rep. Joni Jenkins (D-Louisville) said.

For now, lawmakers are focusing on ideas that do not require more spending, such as laws expanding the rights of foster parents.

“In my state, my home state, there is nobody who is more discriminated against than a foster parent,” Family Court Judge Marie Hellard said.

Others called for cutting red tape to streamline the process.

“I just think leaving kids in foster care for two, three, four, five years is a terrible injustice to children,” adoption attorney Mitch Charney said.

Spainhour summed up the importance of lawmakers getting this right.

“There is nothing worse than a failed adoption," she said. "It's just horrible. Horrible, horrible, horrible.”

The group plans to meet every month and hear testimony from others involved in the adoption process, including social workers and foster parents. It has a December deadline to come up proposals to take to the entire General Assembly next year.

Both Meade and Jenkins said they are not sure how closely the panel will work with Bevin’s new adoption “czar.”

Bevin hired Dan Dumas, who was senior vice president at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, under a $240,000 contract.

Dumas will begin his duties next month and did not attend the work group meeting.

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