The1st meeting of the Subcommittee on Families and Children of the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare was held on Wednesday, July 16, 2003, at<MeetTime> 10:00 AM, in Room 125 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Tom Burch, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Representative Tom Burch, Co-Chair; Senators Damon Thayer, Elizabeth Tori, and Johnny Ray Turner; Representatives Bob DeWeese, Mary Lou Marzian, Jon David Reinhardt, Kathy Stein, and Susan Westrom.
Guests: Bonnie Hommrich, Cabinet for Families and Children; Dietra Paris, Cabinet for Families and Children; and Bill Doll, Kentucky Medical Association.
LRC Staff: DeeAnn Mansfield, Murray Wood, and Cindy Smith.
The first agenda item was a discussion of the transfer of the guardianship section to service area regions, by Dietra Paris, Commissioner, Department for Community Based Services, and Adanne Bagby, Assistant Director, Division of Protection and Permanency. Ms. Paris said they have 46 guardianship staff in their field offices. Their staff in the field work with individuals to get them into placement and assist with financial matters. The financial services are provided from the central office level. They feel that it would help to transfer the supervision of the guardianship staff to the field offices, rather than supervising that staff from Frankfort. She has found that they administer programs better when the supervision is close to where the practice occurs, which is in the field. Of the 46 field staff, there are 6 guardianship supervisors that supervise the remaining 40 in the different counties. These 6 supervisors have reported to the Frankfort office. The only change being made is that they are transferring the supervision of those 6 supervisors from the Frankfort office to the service regions.
Representative Burch said he has had many calls as to how the workers are able to do their job if they work for the person they are supposed to be monitoring. Ms. Paris said they must be talking about a conflict of interest with the adult protective services that is also their responsibility. There is a fine line there. When the Cabinet implements their plan, the 6 supervisors in the field report to a different person than the adult protective services staff. They have been in the same reporting channels all along. So, there is no more conflict of interest with this arrangement, than in the past.
Ms. Bagby also addressed the conflict of interest issue. She said she researched the issue and there are no state or federal conflicts or laws that would conflict with the field workers being brought in under the SRA’s in the region. The only conflict appears in the National Guardianship Association ethics. The only way not to conflict would be to privatize guardianship and fiduciary responsibilities. Since that is not an option and there is no state or federal law conflicting with what is being done, there is no conflict of interest.
Representative Burch asked why the members are receiving so many calls and letters if there is no problem. Ms. Paris said because it is a change, and people are resistive to change, which is common. It is only a change for 6 individuals. The remaining 40 staff will still report to the 6 supervisors.
Representative Reinhardt asked what the positive part of this change is. Ms. Paris said the change will provide better services to clients of guardianship services. Representative Reinhardt asked if the legally disabled are served better. Ms. Paris said they are served better and faster. Representative Reinhardt asked if people have been added or deleted. Ms. Paris said no.
Senator Thayer asked why Kentucky didn’t want to privatize. Ms. Bagby said because it has not worked in other states, and with what she has seen with privatization, she wouldn’t want to see Kentucky go that route.
Senator Tori said one of the major concerns was the conflict between the service provider and the advocate that would have the same supervisor, and asked how was that handled. Ms. Paris said they will have different supervisors in the field, and it will not be the same supervisor as the adult protective services units. Senator Tori asked when the change was implemented. Ms. Paris said the transfer in supervision will take place August 16.
The next agenda item was a discussion of the Child Care Assistance Program, by Mike Cheek, Division of Child Care, Cabinet for Families and Children. Mr. Cheek said child care subsidy costs have risen dramatically in the last five years, increasing from $29.3 million in FY 1998 to $137.7 million in FY 2002. The number of children served has increased from 43,000 to 58,000 per month. After the first two months of state fiscal year ’03, the cabinet projected approximately a $15.8 million shortfall for this biennium. This shortfall would have been considerably higher if it were not for over $40 million in CCDF carry forward. Without this CCDF carry forward in FY 2005, the shortfall could be as much as $39 million. With the increasing demand for child care currently exceeding the existing funding, the Cabinet has been pursuing numerous cost containment measures during both state fiscal years ’02 and ’03. In an effort to address the deficit, the Cabinet has suspended intake of new applications for low-income eligible and secondary education applicants effective May 2003. At the end of June 2003, there are approximately 5,500 children on the waiting list.
Representative Burch asked if the Cabinet lapsed any general fund dollars from FY ’02 or FY ’03. Mr. Cheek said there was a carry forward of federal dollars in the TANF transfer of $42 million. Representative Burch asked if the recipients are having trouble now with education or employment. Mr. Cheek said if they are on, they are eligible to stay on and receive assistance up to 165 percent of poverty. Some of them allowed their benefits to terminate and they are having trouble getting back in because no new applications are being taken. Representative Burch asked about the waiting list. Mr. Cheek said in 1998, there were about 22,000 children on the waiting list, and now there are about 5,500, due to the suspension on the intake of cases.
Representative Stein referred to the 22,000 that were on the waiting list, and said those numbers were just lost out there, and they are no longer eligible for the waiting list. So, it is not that the problem was corrected, the group was just re-classified so there are more people out there.
Representative Burch asked how the providers are affected. Mr. Cheek said anytime a suspension of intake is done, it impacts the providers ability to serve subsidy children because they are no longer available to serve. When they knew they were going to do the freeze, they started alerting providers and families in March, so they continued to keep appointments and stay in the program.
Representative Burch asked if the Cabinet has communicated with the Kentucky Delegation in Washington about the cuts. Mr. Cheek said the information has been sent to them and they listen. Unfortunately, not many of the Kentucky Delegation sit on the right committees, but they do understand the numbers. Representative Burch asked if writing letters to the Delegation would help the situation. Mr. Cheek said they have sent letters to the offices in Washington, and more letters would not hurt.
Representative Reinhardt asked what Congressional committee the $1.3 federal cut came through. Mr. Cheek said the Senate Health Committee, which none of the Kentucky Delegation sits on. Representative Reinhardt suggested sending a letter to the ranking member of the minority party about the federal cuts.
There was a motion by Representative Marzian, seconded by Representative Reinhardt to send a letter to the Kentucky Congressional Delegation and Leadership in Washington regarding the funding for the child care assistance program.
Representative Marzian asked if there has been an increase or decrease in provider rates. Mr. Cheek said neither. The daily rates vary by region.
Representative DeWeese asked if Mr. Cheek could provide the members with some information that would be helpful when they see their Congressman regarding the Child Care Assistance Program and some data in relation to that program. Mr. Cheek said he would look for data on that issue.
Representative Westrom asked about the progress of women moving off of TANF. Secretary Miller said the progress has been amazing. At any given time, 15 percent of the TANF population is enrolled in post-secondary education. The states surrounding Kentucky have seen increases in their rolls in the last few years, while Kentucky’s rolls have not increased. Another good indicator is that 80 percent of the people that have exited the rolls say that they and their families are better off.
Representative Reinhardt asked if there are statistics on the ages and group ages of the people in the program. Secretary Miller said there is data by county, by region, and statewide on the ages, education levels, services, dollars spent in the county, which are run annually.
The last agenda item was an update on Kinship Care by Bonnie Hommrich, Deputy Secretary, Department for Community Based Services, Cabinet for Families and Children and Elizabeth Caywood, Department for Community Based Services, Cabinet for Families and Children. Ms. Hommrich gave an overview of the Kinship Care Program. She said in 1997, the federal government passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act. At that point, they encouraged states to look at relative resources for children who were getting caught in the foster care system. A number of states looked at ways to do that. Kentucky looked at using TANF funds to enhance the child payment to $300 per month, per child. When relatives take the children, they must make a commitment to get permanent custody of the children, which will provide more stability for the child. The program was started in three regions in 1999, and was running statewide in 2000. This program grew very rapidly. Between April, 2001 and April 2002, there was a 42 percent increase in the program. They have looked at ways to manage that, and have continued to put more structure in the program. Between April 2002, and March 2003, there was an increase of 14 percent, so it is becoming more under control.
Representative Westrom asked if once the child is removed from the home if the termination of parental rights has to be done within eighteen months. Ms. Hommrich said they have to do that if the child is committed to the custody of the Department, but these children are actually placed with relatives, so they do not fall under the same guidelines.
Senator Thayer asked for clarification on the fact that Kentucky taxpayers are paying $23 million per year to relatives to take care of other relatives. Ms. Hommrich said the state is paying relatives to take care of relatives, who would otherwise go into the foster care system, which would cost the state more money. The money works on a needs-based system, based on the needs of the child. Some children who receive death benefits or social security greater than $300 per month would not be eligible for the kinship care program.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.