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More Kentucky youth are entering the foster care system, according to a recent report by the nonprofit Kentucky Youth Advocates. That report found that a record 47 of every 1,000 Kentucky youth under age eighteen were in foster care because of abuse or neglect between 2016 and 2018. Additional Kentucky Youth Advocates data show the rate has been increasing since 2011. This week, WFPL’s In Conversation will explore why rate increased, what is being done to address it and what is ahead for child welfare in Kentucky.
Kentucky Youth Advocates reported the data in its 2019 Kentucky KIDS COUNT Data book, which reviews 17 measures for children’s well-being in every county. Republican Senator Julie Raque Adams said the increasing foster care rates were caused in part by Kentucky removing children from guardians during the opioid epidemic, and a disproportionate share of foster youth were African American. The report points to socioeconomic status, family structure, bias and structural inequities as factors in that imbalance. Raque Adams said legislators want to discuss child welfare when the legislative session starts this January because system reforms could spend state dollars more efficiently and strengthen families.
In addition to Kentucky’s record rate of foster youth, the report noted that the percentage of youth leaving foster care to be reunified with parents or guardians has decreased.
Children exiting foster care to reunification (percent)
Source: Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Department for Community Based Services
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