FRANKFORT, Ky. – More than 100 non-profit groups across Kentucky have released what policies they would like to see in 2020 to help Kentucky’s children.
Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children released 13 policy and state budget priorities they hope legislators will pass during the 2020 General Assembly Session.
“They’re research-based, they’re achievable, they’re not budget busters and they will make a profound difference for Kentucky,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, Executive Director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. “We have had a really terrific success rate over the last three years; we are averaging over 93 percent yes votes on each of these measures when you take all the votes in the House and all the votes in the Senate.”
The 2020 budget year brings a lot of possibilities for the coalition to get certain programs funded by the legislature and despite the change in the makeup of the governor’s office, Brooks thinks the policies laid out by the blueprint will be palatable to both parties.
“We do believe the kind of ideas we are suggesting are core to what Republicans and Democrats, urban and rural, the executive and legislative branch that they can get their arms around,” said Dr. Brooks.
Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children would like to see lawmakers use the budget to help improve systems within Kentucky. One of those he hopes can see some new funding is the kinship and fictive kin care system specifically when it comes to respite care. Foster families get 24 hours of respite care a month while kinship families get zero.
“That’s not a budget buster but it is a new budget item so that is what I call a systems change idea,” Brooks said.
The coalition would also like to see the monthly stipend given to foster families matched for kinship families which are around $700 a month.
More supports for the child care system is another priority. They would like to see more state funding for child care assistance to improve access to affordable care. They say it’s more than just providing care for the child it would allow more people to get into the workforce.
They would also like to see licensed child care program standards strengthened on healthy eating and drinking, active play and screen time to support children’s healthy growth and development.
The coalition would also like to see some changes to the criminal justice system in the form of bail reform. This is an issue that has been discussed in Kentucky for years but lawmakers have failed to make any movement. Kentucky jails continue to overflow with low-level offenders who simply cannot afford to pay for bail. Kentucky ranks 2nd in the nation for the number of children orphaned due to incarcerated parents.
“Only Arkansas has a higher number of children who don’t have access to their moms or dads because they are locked up,” Brooks said. “Our interest in bail reform goes directly back to the fact that we think that in so many of those cases those little boys and little girls are better being reunified with their mom.”
The coalition would also like to see Family Recovery Court pilot projects developed in select communities.
They would also like to see some changes made to the juvenile justice system—particularly why minority children make up the majority of the system and expanding court discretion by eliminating the automatic transfer of youth age 14 and older to the adult system when an offense with a gun is committed.
They would also like to see a minimum age that a child can be charged with an offense and connect the child to family-focused services to hopefully prevent a child from getting involved in the juvenile justice system—with exceptions for violent crimes.
“A kid makes a mistake our response should not be lock you up, it should not get you in the criminal justice system, it really a call for child welfare support,” Dr. Brooks said. “That’s going to take money but we believe in the long term and in the short term it will actually save money, going into that family, supporting that family, helping them think about how they can help that kid that is so much better for that kid and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than locking them up.”
The coalition would also like to see a state refundable Earned Income Tax Credit implemented.
“We know when a family gets an Earned Income Tax Credit back at a federal level they spend that money locally,” Dr. Brooks said. “It helps the family, it helps the local economy, and as a result of that local economy what happens? The state budget grows.”
Other policy priorities include:
- Prioritize investments in child health coverage to help close the remaining gap of children without coverage and make sure children and families continue to have health coverage
- Enacting a tax on e-cigarettes, prohibit tobacco sales to anyone under 21 and strengthening the state investment in tobacco use prevention and cessation programming
- Funding Senate Bill 1, the School Safety and Resiliency Act, boosting investment in Family Resource and Youth Service Centers to implement Free Care
- Eliminate corporal punishment in schools
- Require adults homeschooling K-12 children meet minimum educational and safety requirements.
- Strengthen state efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect
More information can be found here.