KY Foster Kids Say They Want Stability and Better Care
Thursday, December 8, 2022
According to a new report, a significant number of the state's youths are institutionalized, not because of a need for intensive supervision but because kinship or foster families are not available.
The pandemic pushed Kentucky's child welfare agencies and workforce to its limits, and after the recent deaths of children in the state's residential facilities, advocates are calling for reforms. In 2020, more than 8,000 children in the Commonwealth were placed in foster care.
Tamara Vest, a University of Kentucky graduate student and intern for Kentucky Youth Advocates, said prevention is the best strategy.
"Catching things upstream so that you don't have to remove children from their homes, but you're able to help families get the resources that they need so that separation doesn't occur," Vest explained.
Roughly 10% of Kentucky's foster care kids live in a group home or institution.
Elutan Dawson, a youth development specialist and former foster youth, said it is critical for young people to spend time with volunteers and mentors, to strengthen their network of support, help them gain skills and teach them life lessons.
"Mentorship and just the opportunities to engage with volunteers were very helpful for me," Dawson recounted. "I've been able to learn some skills, went hiking and Boy Scouts when I was in residential, and I learned how to camp. I can go camp now."
Cynthia Scheppers, peer coach coordinator for Kentucky Youth Advocates, said communities have a collective responsibility to support youths without kinship ties, especially during the holiday season.
"Whether that be in the form of getting presents or opening your home for the youths for the holidays," Scheppers suggested.
The state's network of social workers plays a critical role in ensuring foster youths have opportunities to forge healthy relationships. According to the report, the pandemic worsened staffing issues, and retaining direct-care workers in residential facilities is an ongoing challenge.
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