A Plan to Reform Foster Care
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin called for pushing back against the status quo in foster care policy Monday in remarks at the American Enterprise Institute in which he argued that excess and needless bureaucracy is keeping foster children from being placed in new homes.
Bevin, a Republican, has made foster care a priority in his administration, sponsoring legislation that passed a House committee in the Kentucky legislature last week.
Bevin said Kentucky has approximately 8,500 children in foster care, about 70 percent of whom come from a family in which at least one parent has a substance abuse disorder. Of that total, 2,400 are eligible to be adopted, a process Bevin said takes, on average, about three years.
“This system isn’t working properly – something is broken,” Bevin said. “This is not unique to Kentucky. We are not taking care of the children. We are not listening to the children.”
Bevin grew emotional several times during his talk, saying that the issue is personal for him because he and his wife tried to adopt a foster child but were ultimately denied because they already had 5 kids at home and authorities worried that another child would not receive sufficient attention. Bevin and his wife currently have 9 children.
He said that experience led him to want to change the system to give foster children a better opportunity to be placed in more positive home environments. To not do so, would be “utterly irresponsible on the part of those of us in government who have the ability to do something about it.”
The key points of Kentucky’s foster care reform bill include:
- Provide $24 million to hire more social workers.
- Expand the definition of child abuse to include pregnant women who abuse drugs and expose the developing fetus. Women who enroll in treatment programs would be exempted.
- Create a confidential state “putative father” registry where a male who believes he could be the father of an infant must register prior to the child’s birth if he wants parental rights.
- Create more specific timelines for the termination of parental rights if a child can’t be returned home safely.
- Create a study group to consider the possibility of privatizing foster care in Kentucky.
Bevin also responded to a question from the audience about comments he has made about the proper response to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 people were killed.
The governor said he feels strongly that toughened gun control measures alone would not deal with the growing problem of school shootings. “It is part of a larger construct,” Bevin said. “If we think that part of what we are seeing is not a cultural problem, we’re kidding ourselves.”
Bevin argued that what has changed in American life is not the growing presence of guns in the home but a devaluing of human life through the pervasive influence of violent video games, music lyrics, television shows and movies, and near-omnipresent pornography.
“The mores of this nation have changed,” Bevin said. “We’re losing the value for life that we once had.”