Governor, First Lady talk about raising nine kids, and overhauling state foster care system

Published: Apr. 3, 2017 at 4:54 PM EDT
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"I'm told, when she was a little girl she wanted to have a dozen kids," Governor Matt Bevin said as he looked over at his wife and smiled. "I thought, 'Well, that's a big number,'" he recalled.

Governor Bevin and First Lady Glenna Bevin sat down with WKYT's Miranda Combs in the Governor's Mansion to talk about a passion they've shared since they met. "We knew when we were dating that it was definitely something we were considering," Mrs. Bevin said about adoption.

Governor Bevin went on, "It's funny, we discovered when we first met each other we had both always been fascinated with orphans for some reason. I don't know why, when I say fascinated, we always had a heart for them."

The Bevins now have nine children; four were adopted. Their struggle to adopt children in Kentucky drove them to adopt their children from another country. It also drove them to try to make sweeping changes to the current foster care system in the state.

Mrs. Bevin also saw first hand what they consider an over-complicated adoption process. She was a nurse and watched adoption after adoption fall through after the Department for Community Based Services were called. "The story that sticks with me the most is we had a mom who was a nurse, the dad was a doctor, and the biological mom was a drug addict. It (the adoption) was all done. DCBS stepped in, took the child and ended up putting it back with the mother. By the time I ended up in the emergency room, I was treating that child for abuse, sexual, physical, emotional. It was horrible."

The Bevins hosted a foster care forum last month, asking state leaders to re-think the foster care system. They want those in charge to stop trying so hard to get kids back with birth parents when birth parents aren't measuring up. "We need to come up with a smarter, better way to use common sense and do what is best for the child, period," Governor Bevin said.

The Bevins know there is not one simple fix. The foster care and adoption set up in the state is tough to navigate. So tough, they washed their hands of it years ago and adopted their children from another country. They believe it didn't need to be that way. Governor Bevin said, "We've made it so convoluted, so bureaucratic, so confusing, so time-consuming, so frustrating, that people finally say, 'Enough!' That was our experience. It's part of why we're sitting here. It's a part of why I ran for governor."

But they said the problem isn't just the Health and Family Services Cabinet in Frankfort, it filters down to the hospitals that are following rules that perhaps shouldn't be there. "It needs to probably be mandated because, here's the thing, we live in a day and age where liability is a very important issue, and we've put a lot of things off on the hospital that shouldn't be put off on hospitals," said Governor Bevin.

Mrs. Bevin went on, "We've tied their hands as well."

Governor Bevin continued, "We need to rethink the protocol. We need to think the rules again and come up with a better methodology where hospitals are immune from some of the liability associated with making the right decision."