Health & Medicine

Here’s one way you could help the nearly 10,000 Kentucky kids in foster care

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Kentucky is looking for volunteers to review child abuse and neglect cases in more than 20 counties in hopes of helping foster children find permanent homes.

Volunteers would fill empty seats on Citizen Foster Care Review boards, which review neglect, abuse and dependency cases and recommend their findings to courts and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The reviews often help expedite the placement of those minors in safe, permanent homes.

Each location’s board is staffed with up to a dozen people to review area cases. The volunteers provide complementary support to caseworkers with heavy caseloads working to accommodate a brimming foster and congregate care system, which peaked to historic heights last year when more than 9,900 children were in state custody. That figure has since dropped, but not substantially: as of September 1, there were 9,721 minors in out-of-home care.

Nearly 750 volunteers staffed these boards in 2018 and completed a historic number of reviews — more than 21,500 — of roughly 12,500 minors in state custody, according to the board’s annual report.

Formed in the early 1980s, the purpose of the citizen boards is to reduce the amount of time children spend in state custody because of abuse or neglect. Last year, the average length of stay in out-of-home care was 20 months.

Thirty-seven percent of the children whose cases were reviewed by board volunteers were reunified with their families, while 30 percent were placed with a relative, and 20 percent were adopted by new families, though it still took an average of three years in out-of-home care for that to happen, the report shows.

Volunteers, who are appointed by local judges for three-year terms, aren’t required to live in the county where they’re reviewing cases but must complete a six-hour training session and agree to a background check. More applicant information can be found at https://kycourts.gov/courtprograms/cfcrb

Boards in the following counties are in immediate need of volunteers: Barren, Bell, Breathitt, Breckinridge, Bullitt, Floyd, Grayson, Hardin, Harlan, Hart, Jefferson, Knott, LaRue, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Meade, Nelson, Owsley, Perry, Pike and Wolfe.

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