Fact Check: Kentucky’s foster care system, then and now

Photo: WKYT
Published: Sep. 12, 2019 at 6:38 PM EDT
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Kentucky had the most children in foster care that the state has ever had in November 2018, but there could be signs that the trend is going downward.

More than 9,900 children were in the foster care system. Currently the number is down a little at 9,721.

"We celebrate our accomplishments and success that we've made a targeted effort to reduce the number of children in state care," said Department for Community Based Services Commissioner Eric Clark.

Clark told WKYT he knows it's not much to brag about. The state still doesn't have enough social workers. Most in Kentucky have 30 cases apiece, almost double the national recommendations of 15 to 18 cases. And the state still doesn't have enough quality foster homes.

"9700 in care and 5400 foster homes, simple math will tell you we don't have enough," Clark said.

The problems DCBS faces now are nothing new, and Clark knows it's not going to stop. Therefore, DCBS is changing their thinking by using foster care as a last resort instead of the only result. The goal is being more involved with the families before they get to the point of needing foster care.

"That's where our next level of concentration is, how do we start shifting resources more on the front end to stop children from coming into care so quickly?"

Clark said nine out of ten times, they want to go back home. He told us one boy's story. "Regardless of what was going on in his home, where did he want to be? Home. And we need to honor how we work with families." Yet he also added, "But at the same time you’ve got to know when to say when and when enough is enough. A child can't linger in care if a family can't get their act together."

Commissioner Clark also said Kentucky has the highest rate per capita of substantiated allegations of child abuse and neglect. Also, Kentucky has the second-highest rate of child fatalities and near fatalities.