A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky Youth Advocates leading weeklong series of virtual events urging lawmakers to invest in kids

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Young people and their advocates are participating in a weeklong series of virtual events urging Kentucky lawmakers to prioritize kids’ safety, health, education and economic well-being in this year’s legislative session.

The events are part of Kentucky Youth Advocates’ Children’s Advocacy Week.

Felicity Krueger, an Adair County high-school senior, said legislative issues almost always affect kids, but rarely involve their participation.

“I mean, you can make laws about kids and not include kids, but they’re the ones who are going to be affected by it,” Krueger asserted. “Kids are the next generation and the future, and we want to make sure that we have good futures when we all grow up.”

Krueger and others are asking state lawmakers to invest in infrastructure to close Kentucky’s digital divide, establish a minimum age that a child can be charged with an offense, and work to connect kids to community-based services instead of relying on the juvenile justice system, among other reforms.

More information about Children’s Advocacy Week can be found at kyyouth.org.

Another priority is allowing local governments to regulate the sale and distribution of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director for Kentucky Youth Advocates, said the current focus on the coronavirus pandemic shouldn’t stop lawmakers from taking action.

“It has never been more important that the General Assembly and the governor come together on issues around kids,” Brooks contended. “Whether that’s policies in juvenile justice and child welfare, or key budget investments, Kentucky’s kids have to have action in Frankfort during the 2021 session.”

Brooks noted many children have struggled with poverty, abuse and maltreatment in the Commonwealth for decades, but the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Brown communities will likely have long-term effects on kids as well.

“What we know is that the past year has seen all of those issues exacerbated and amplified because of the pandemic,” Brooks emphasized.

He added despite recent reforms to the state’s juvenile justice system, young people of color continue to be overrepresented behind bars, and said racial disparities have worsened in recent years.

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