Last month Governor Matt Bevin and the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) filed an emergency change to amend an existing regulation on adoption in Kentucky. Prior to that action, adoptive parents with five children — biological or adopted — were denied any additional adoptions. The amended change was passed, removing the numerical threshold that had previously been in place. Now an adoptive home must only prove to meet the need of the child.
According to DCBS Commissioner Eric Clark, the regulation needed to be amended in order to comply with House Bill 1, the state’s reform of the foster care and adoption systems, which was passed in 2017.
House Bill 1 outlines new requirements for foster care case review that will take effect Jan. 1, 2019. Specifically, that children in foster care more than 12 months must have their case reviewed every three months by the family court. Additionally, if a child has spent 15 of the last 48 months in foster care, the child’s case needs to move toward reunification with the biological parents or toward termination of parental rights.
DCBS Deputy Commissioner Elizabeth Caywood says these changes will, in turn, make adoptions easier to pursue.
“The goal is to achieve permanency more quickly and not languish in care,” Caywood said.
House Bill 1 additionally outlines that children placed in congregate care (group foster homes) must be reviewed every 60 days, a change that will take effect Oct. 1, 2019.
While DCBS says this could add to the caseload of family court across the state, Family Court Judge Julie Hawes Gordon says she will see very little change in her courtroom. According to Gordon, she has already implemented these changes in Daviess County Family Court.
“I want to lay eyes on them [children in foster care] as often as I can,” Gordon said.
Gordon says these new guidelines are considered “best practice” in family courts across the U.S. Even more, Gordon has implemented other practices that she says makes her court more efficient, like arranging her docket so that social workers only have court one day per month, rarely resetting cases and ensuring case management workers have addressed cases before they appear before her bench.
Gordon also says it is a general rule that all children in foster care be present during court.
“Even if they haven’t been forgotten about, they feel forgotten about,” Gordon said. “They feel filed away.”
Gordon says requiring children in foster care be present in court allows them to feel more in control of their situation.
There are currently 9,700 children in foster care in Kentucky according to DCBS, and Gordon says over 100 of those are in Daviess County.