Rep. David Meade files priority legislation addressing adoption and foster care changes
Wednesday, January 31st, 2018 @ 11:59AM
House Majority Caucus Chairman David Meade, R-Stanford, along with primary co-sponsor Joni Jenkins of Louisville, have filed a comprehensive measure to provide reforms that will improve Kentucky’s adoption and foster care systems. The bill is the first step in streamlining the actual placement of children into loving homes in a quick and affordable manner.
House Bill 1 is based heavily off of recommendations from the House Adoption and Foster Care Working Group, which has worked diligently since May of 2017 to find solutions to the high cost and burdensome paperwork associated with adoption in Kentucky. Rep. Meade, who co-chaired the workgroup, is aiming to keep children from lingering too long in state custody, whether that be moving them quickly through the foster care system or adopted into homes.
“For eight months, our bipartisan working group has listened to many interested parties and worked diligently to produce this bill,” said Meade, who is the father of an adopted daughter. “Many issues have led to the epidemic of children lingering in the state system, including an oversized bureaucracy, the opioid epidemic, and a lack of attention in the past to these issues. House Bill 1 is the first step in putting Kentucky on a different track for adoption and foster care, and truly putting children and families first.”
Among numerous highlights, the comprehensive bill creates more specific timelines for the termination of parental rights, establishes more accountability and oversight within the cabinet of Health and Family Services, standardizes home studies to ensure safe homes in a more efficient manner, establishes a putative father registry, and creates a separate child welfare committee in the Kentucky House of Representatives. 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.
Chairman Meade, along with co-chair Joni Jenkins and the rest of the committee, worked closely with the Governor’s Office and First Lady Glenna Bevin, who has been an outspoken leader and advocate of adoption and foster care reform.
“I was proud to co-chair the Adoption and Foster Care Task Force with David and think the work our group did will be the basis for one of this year’s legislative highlights,” said state Rep. Joni Jenkins of Shively. “If this effort benefits just one child, it will have been worth it.”
Other key components of the bill 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 Governor Bevin proposed adding $24 million to hiring and increasing pay for social workers, as well as $10.8 million to improve the foster care placement process and adoption efforts, in his two-year budget proposal.
“While truly solving this problem will be an ongoing effort, I am confident that we will get this piece of legislation passed this session and steer some much-needed funding towards improving the lives of families and children,” added Meade. “Eventually, our goal is to make Kentucky the gold standard for children in state care,” added Meade.
Rep. Meade serves the 80th House District, which encompasses Lincoln and part of Pulaski County. Elected in 2010, he serves as the House Majority Caucus Chairman, having assumed the post at the beginning of 2017.