A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

New data shows number of Kentucky kids being raised by relatives has nearly doubled since 2013

By Mary Kuhlman
Public News Service

Thousands of Kentuckians open their hearts and homes to help the children of loved ones during times of crisis. And new data highlights the need to better assist these kinship families.

According to Census data, there are 96,000 Kentucky kids being raised by a relative, nearly double the number in 2013. That includes about 15,000 children who were removed from their homes due to suspected abuse or neglect. Norma Hatfield of Hardin County, who is raising two granddaughters, said these children need help rebuilding their lives.

In Kentucky, 96,000 kids are being raised by a non-parental relative. (Photo from Pixabay, via PNS)

“They have been in horrible, horrible conditions. They are going to do much better if they know somebody that they can stay with,” Hatfield said. “And children should not be penalized because they lay their head down at night in a relative’s home instead of in a foster home.”

Hatfield said kinship families do not receive as much support as foster care families, although they must provide for children in the same ways. She said she’s spoken with kinship providers who are draining their own savings just to meet the basic needs of the children suddenly in their care due to parental addiction or incarceration.

“This is not a car repair,” she said. “You may have six kids on your doorstep, and you have to set up beds. You’re feeding six growing kids. You’re taking them to appointments, you need a van and you may have to miss work.”

The state budget passed this year included funding for the Kinship Care Program, which will provide financial support to kin caregivers. Executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates Dr. Terry Brooks said he commends state leaders for seeing the value in providing a safe home for children in the care of relatives. However, he noted, those plans have not yet translated into palpable change.

“The money was intended to give monthly economic supports to kinship families just like we do for foster care,” Brooks explained. “It’s not fancy or complicated. But we need a formula and we need those allocations to start going to families rather than sitting in escrow in the state budget.”

From 2016 to 2018, 9 percent of Kentucky children were being raised by a relative – more than double the national rate of 4 percent. More information on issues facing kinship families in Kentucky is available at kyyouth.org.

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