A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Lawmakers named to permanent child welfare committee created by passage of HB 1

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Legislative leaders have named most of the members of the permanent Child Welfare and Oversight Advisory Committee created by the passage of House Bill 1, the adoption and foster care reform measure in the 2018 General Assembly.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, named three Republican members: Sens. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville, Tom Buford of Nicholasville and Whitney Westerfield of Hopkinsville.  Adams will serve as co-chair of the panel.

House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, R-Prospect, chose three GOP House members: Reps. Lynn Bechler of Marion, David Meade of Stanford and Suzanne Miles of Owensboro.  Meade will also be a committee co-chair.

House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, named Democratic Reps. Angie Hatton of Whitesburg and Joni Jenkins of Shively.

Senate Democrats who will serve on the panel have not been named yet.

House Bill 1 was the product of a bipartisan working group named on the last day of the 2017 legislative session by then House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, with co-chair by Meade and Jenkins. The group had more than a half-dozen public meetings and numerous other gatherings with stakeholders, before issuing recommendations in December 2017, and introducing the bill at the end of January 2018.

Among its more significant provisions are more specific timelines for the termination of parental rights, establishing more accountability and oversight within the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, standardizing studies to ensure safe homes in a more efficient manner, and establishes a putative father registry in keeping with around 27 other states.

The legislation also aims to give foster care parents a stronger voice in the process, by expanding foster care advisory boards and allowing more parental input.

Other key components include utilizing technology to reduce the large amount of paperwork required of social workers, as well as improving efforts to recruit and retain valuable social workers. The latter goal received a large boost when Bevin proposed adding $24 million to hiring and increasing pay for social workers along with $10.8 million to improve the foster care placement process and adoption efforts in his two-year budget proposal.

More work on adoption and foster care could come in later years by the Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee. Its duties are to “review, analyze, and provide oversight to the General Assembly on child welfare” in the state.

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