EDITORIAL: General Assembly applauded for efforts to improve foster care

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By The Kentucky Standard Editorial Board

The Kentucky legislature thinks we, as a state, can do foster care better, and this board is inclined to agree.

As a result, a handful of bills are working their way through the Kentucky House and Senate with a mind toward making the experiences of children in the foster care system better, and more normalized.

Senate Bill 190 passed unanimously on Wednesday with a 36-0 vote and has made its way to the House. The bill seeks to provide foster children in the custody of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services with educational stability when they have to be moved out of their homes.

For foster children, stability in general is often missing in their lives. We’ve all heard stories of children bounced around from home to home, school to school, and that upheaval invariably hinders the learning pace.

A child might drop into a school system during a time when their classes are focusing on one aspect of the educational discipline, but might be moved on before getting to the next step in the curriculum process — think of a child whose class is covering their multiplication tables, but they’re off to the next school before their old one can transition to teaching long division. If the next school isn’t on the same time schedule as the former school, that child may have a big gap in their educational experience.

SB 190, filed by Jefferson County Republican Dan Seum, looks to make it easier for foster children to remain in the same school system, even if they are changing homes. This can provide those children with an educational anchor they’ve never experienced.

House Bill 192, which passed last month and is awaiting action by the Senate, would make it easier for a minor foster child to obtain a learner’s permit and/or driver’s license without the signature of a parent or guardian. Obtaining a driver’s license is a big step for a teenager, and this would allow those in foster care a better chance at an important rite of passage into adulthood.

House Bill 180, which passed through the Senate on Wednesday and is awaiting Gov. Matt Bevin’s signature, introduces the concept of “fictive kin,” acknowledging that there are people in children’s lives who may not be relatives, but who have significant emotional ties to the child. They may be family friends, coaches, teachers, neighbors, etc., with whom the child has built stable relations. Keeping those children with individuals they are familiar with can go a long way toward maintaining stability in unfortunate situations. It could also reduce the number of children in the foster care system.

We applaud the actions of the General Assembly on these matters.