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Kentucky state senator wants action as foster kids sleep in state offices

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(The Center Square) – A key Kentucky state lawmaker has come out with some harsh words for the Gov. Andy Beshear Administration after media reports last week revealed kids in the state’s foster care program have been forced to live and sleep in public office buildings.

The Courier Journal reported last week children in the care of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services have been forced to sleep in a century-old Downtown Louisville building because social workers have been unable to find foster parents to accept placement. In some cases, kids have been forced to stay in those conditions for several weeks.

State Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, said in a statement Saturday that she’s still “troubled” by the reports because she asked CHFS Secretary Eric Freidlander to rectify the situation in an April 28 letter.

The state did not respond until late last month, added Adams, the majority caucus chair in the Senate.

“While I understand and appreciate the complexity and difficulty these situations can be within the child welfare system, I cannot understand why finding a solution to placing vulnerable children with families and licensed providers in Kentucky is not a top priority for the administration,” she said.

Social workers have sometimes been forced to seek out-of-state placements for some foster kids. In her April letter, Adams said that was just as “unacceptable” as having them sleep on a state office floor.

“Children who are placed out of state may not be covered by Kentucky Medicaid, which ultimately diverts additional resources from the Department for Community Based Services to cover the exceptional rates required to provide care to the child.”

Adams told Friedlander more than two months ago the cabinet has shown it can act quickly on issues it deems a priority, such as passing emergency rules to expand Medicaid coverage for vision, dental and hearing services.

Kentucky is not the only state facing an issue of finding suitable temporary shelter for kids within its care. The American Enterprise Institute released a report in April that found older children and kids who need a higher level of support have been forced to live in state offices, emergency rooms, hotels and homeless shelters across the country.

“While bed shortages have long plagued child welfare systems, a confluence of issues has caused the problem to metastasize into a crisis,” the report stated. “These issues include increasing levels of need within the foster care population, financial challenges facing direct service providers, and ideological shifts that have driven new legislative and regulatory requirements and new restrictions on funding and administrative decision-making.

“The result is that states and counties are rapidly losing residential treatment and congregate care capacity while struggling to recruit and retain foster homes capable of serving higher-needs foster children.”

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