The4th meeting of the Subcommittee on Families and Children of the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare was held on Monday, December 11, 2006, at 10:00 AM, in Room 169 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Tom Burch, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Guests: Clyde Caudill for Jefferson County Public Schools; Paul McElwain for the Kentucky Department of Education, and Brenda Caudill-Barnes for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Office of Inspector General.
LRC Staff: DeeAnn Mansfield, Ben Payne, and Cindy Smith.
The first item on the agenda was a presentation on Relative Placement and Adoption of Foster Children by Relatives by Mike Grimes, Adoption Branch Manager, Kathy Adams, Assistant Director, and Jim Grace, Assistant Director, Division of Protection and Permanency, Department for Community Based Services, Cabinet for Health and Family Services. They reported on cabinet activities and research related to relative placement and adoption of foster children by relatives. They indicated that there are several different types of arrangements for children not living with their parents including: (1) independent adoptions which do not involve the Department of Community Based Services; (2) Relative custody of children with Department of Community Based Services Involvement; (3) Cabinet custody and placed in kinship care with relative; (4) Cabinet custody and placed in foster care with relative or not with relative; and (5) relative foster parent adoption.
They indicated that there are different benefits and barriers to these arrangements. Currently, there are about 6,900 children in the custody of the cabinet who are in foster care placements and about 7,911 children actively receiving kinship care benefits. Minimal service or assistance is available unless the Department for Community Based Services is involved. They indicated that lack of resources is sometimes a barrier to relative adoption because after adoption, most assistance ceases.
The criteria for home evaluations, kinship care assistance, and relative training were presented. Research conducted by the cabinet on randomly selected cases to determine use of best practices was also presented. The study asked questions related to case quality. Data was presented showing an increase in relative placements since May, 2005. The data indicated that children exiting to relative care from foster care leave 2 to 5 times faster than other children. The data also indicated that improvements are needed in case worker monthly visits to the homes of children placed with relatives. Data from the Kentucky Foster Care Census from 2003 on the needs of relative foster care providers was presented. As many as 90 percent indicated that they did not have training to deal with special needs of their child. Many indicated that they needed additional supports for their child and several indicated problems with the birth parent not visiting the child. The cabinet is currently planning several strategies for facilitating relative placement where appropriate.
Representative Burch asked if the Cabinet sets children up for adoption outside of the family unit before looking at kinship placement. Ms. Adams said that there are various factors that go into consideration when placing children, but their policy is to look at relative placement first. She stated that when a parent's rights are terminated, then family ties are severed, and the child is no longer related to their birth family. Visitation can continue with grandparents if that visitation is established before the parental rights are terminated.
Representative Burch asked how many children are currently in state custody and out-of-state custody. Mr. Grace said that there are 6,900 in state custody and 56 or 57 in out-of-state custody.
Representative Burch asked if foster homes are evaluated the same as relative homes are evaluated. Ms. Adams said that foster homes go through a more stringent home evaluation process.
Representative Burch asked how much power state ombudsman have and if they have any influence to change policy. Ms. Adams said that ombudsman are relied upon everyday for many things, including forwarding systemic issues. Mr. Graces noted that it is important for the ombudsman to be independent from the Department of Community Based Services.
The next item on the agenda was a presentation on Integrating Physical Activity and Nutrition in Schools by Paul McElwain, Director, Division of Nutrition and Health Services, Department of Education. Mr. McElwain reported that the department administers several programs that deliver quality nutrition and nutrition education to Kentucky students and encourages and facilitates physical opportunities in schools. Mr. McElwain indicated that schools in Kentucky have taken a variety of approaches to integrating physical activity into the school day. He indicated that a letter was set to LRC, as required under KRS 160.345(11), but the department does not collect or analyze data related to progress being made by schools in incorporating physical activities or on progress related to reducing obesity.
Representative Burch asked for the number of schools currently conducting credible physical activity programs. Mr. McElwain said he did not have an exact number. He said they work with partners to get information on what schools do, but schools are not actually surveyed for results.
Representative Burch noted that children must be educated about proper nutrition and exercise so they can educate their parents.
Representative Burch suggested that data should be collected on schools that participate in the physical activity imitative, as well as how many schools do not participate in the physical activity initiative, in order to see if it is working.
Representative Damron noted that there were many fears and complaints from constituents when the physical activity initiative was passed and asked if those fears have been recognized. Mr. McElwain said that some school personnel misunderstood the program as a mandate, and some schools were concerned because they did not have full-time physical education teachers, which created a money concern. Also, many schools did not understand the available resources and that there are organizations who want to help with this.
Representative Brinkman asked at what point schools begin to educate children about proper nutrition. Mr. McElwain said that the benefit of proper nutrition and exercise is taught throughout school at age-appropriate levels, starting in Kindergarten, and continuing through the twelfth grade.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:10 a.m.