WFPL Report: Foster Care in Kentucky


In a 2014, WFPL News reported on the significant challenges faced by Kentucky’s public school districts: homelessness, court system involved families, substance abuse, and young people involved in the foster care system.

Across the state, approximately 7,600 children and youth are in foster care, a system that struggles to adequately meet the complex needs of families and children. “Kentucky is near the threshold of correcting years of messy bureaucracy that have led to high costs and inefficient care for children, state child-welfare leaders and advocates say. But more time is needed to fix the byzantine system, says Teresa James, commissioner of the Department of Community Based Services, which oversees the state’s child welfare.”

According to the WFPL News report, the child welfare system is working to address two critical needs:

First, the assessments kids get when they enter the welfare system aren’t adequate, says  Crystal Collins-Camargo, an associate professor at the Kent School of Social Work at the University of Louisville.

“The system today does not routinely, in a systematic way, assess those kids at the front door,” she says.

“That doesn’t mean a lot of kids don’t get referred very quickly on to mental health services. A lot of them do.”

But that’s not always a good thing. Children must be referred to the right agencies for the right services, she says.

Once the assessments improve, the second major issue will be making sure the right services are available.

That’s where the woman with the “impossible job” comes in.

“I have to change. I don’t get a choice,” says James, who has led the state’s Department of Community Based Services since 2012.

James is lauded by some child-welfare advocates who are optimistic that Kentucky is close to making significant changes.

But she’ll need to be creative, because money is tight.

 “There’s just a lot of grassroots types of programs that don’t exist any more that provided some really strong outcomes for us, and now we don’t have those,” she says. “So a lot of those basic services, DCBS staff are now trying to pinch hit.”

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CSYA Issue Briefs: Voices of Louisville’s Young Adults

Voices of Louisville’s Young Adults is a series of issue briefs to help the community better understand how young adults in crisis without support live, hope and think. The information in the issue briefs was generated from a series of focus sessions and an online survey of 95 young adults, who were experiencing or had experienced crises. The intent of the efforts was to listen to Young Adults and have their voices represented in the work of the Planning Team and Work Teams. Each issue brief contains a profile of the 95 Young Adults surveyed.
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Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity

This KIDS COUNT policy report suggests that business, government, philanthropy and communities must come together to create opportunities and build a stronger workforce for the future. Now is the time to undertake a flexible, focused and nimble approach to strengthen our systems and create new opportunities for disconnected youth.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (Publication Year). Publication Title. Baltimore, MD: Author. Retrieved from URL

Kentucky Ranks 50th in US for Extent of Youth Homelessness

66,818 children and youth were reported homeless in Kentucky according to a 2014 report America’s Youngest Outcasts: A Report Card on Child Homeless. This places Kentucky last in the nation in the extent of child homelessness.

Counting the number of homeless at any age is a challenge faced by every community. The Urban Institute offers some guidance on ways to gather information so can communities take action. Additional resources of information on the number of homeless young people:

US Department of Education

US Department of Housing and Urban Development

Rising Number of Homeless Young Adults in Louisville

“They can’t go to mom and dad’s house…
Their support system is just nonexistent.”

A story by the Courier-Journal highlights the Coalition’s call to action:

  • 555 people ages 18-24 slept in local adult homeless shelters in 2012, more than twice the number reported in 2011
  • 18 percent of Jefferson County residents ages 18-64 were living in poverty in 2012, up from 14.4 percent in 2008
  • At one shelter, Haven House, clients aged 18-24 have quadrupled compared with five years ago — now comprising a quarter of its nearly 70 residents on most days.

Some of our community’s vulnerable youth and young adults are struggling because of family traumas, criminal records, mental illness or substance abuse. Most are unable to find employment because of these problems or because they have dropped out of high school or college or returned  from military service without applicable skills. More than half, according to estimates, were in foster care when they turned 18 years of age.

Mayor Greg Fischer and other advocates called a news conference in Sept 2013 to call attention to the needs of Louisville’s vulnerable youth and young adults, asking the community to step up as mentors, donors and volunteers. Fischer urged Louisville residents not to “walk the other way and say it’s not my problem.”

“We have a vested interest … because they are the wage-earners of our future,” said Stacy Deck, vice-chair of the coalition board.

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