Op-Ed

Bevin must end lawsuit, allow aid to those rearing grandchildren

McClatchy-Tribune

As attorney general, I have spent every day protecting the safety of our Kentucky families by better protecting children, advocating for our seniors, seeking justice for victims of violent crime and addressing our state’s growing drug epidemic.

Our drug epidemic is ripping our families apart.

Traveling the state, I have met and mourned with hundreds of parents who have lost a child to an overdose. I have met even more children whose parents have become addicted. Many of these children end up in our state’s foster care system.

But more than 100,000 of these children are being raised by relatives.

Specifically, our seniors have answered the call. More than 86,000 Kentucky grandparents are raising their grandchildren, more than we have ever seen in the history of our commonwealth.

While these grandparents provide a loving home, they did not plan or save financially, never thinking they would once again become a primary caregiver. Their grandchildren have also suffered trauma, watching their families fall apart. They have likely seen their parents repeatedly abuse drugs, fall into addiction, and then possibly abuse or abandon the child who loves them.

In the foster care system, these children would receive services to address this trauma and to begin to heal. The foster parents would also receive a stipend, or set payments, to help offset some of the costs of raising these amazing children.

Yet when our grandparents step up, providing perhaps a better home, they receive no help.

Recently, some of these relatives took Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services to court. They argued that as caregivers, they are entitled to a stipend to help their grandchildren. A federal appellate court agreed, ordering the state to provide such a stipend to grandparents.

This ruling was an opportunity for Kentucky to do the right thing — to provide desperately needed help for grandparents who are on the front lines of fighting our drug epidemic by rescuing our children whom the crisis has left abandoned.

The governor has promised to be a champion for children. This was his chance to prove it.

Sadly, he has instead hired the international law firm that represented Enron to fight our noble grandparents and other relatives all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

I am calling on the governor and his cabinet to reverse course, and agree to fund kinship care and help our seniors. I hope all Kentuckians will encourage the governor and his cabinet to do the right thing. Our grandparents have stepped up for Kentucky children. It is time we step up for them.

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