There are many reasons why Kentucky children may require the care of someone other than their biological parents: death, incarceration, hospitalization, drug use, etc. Sometimes Social Services take custody of these children. As a result, they go into the state system, which often involves placing them with foster parents previously unknown to them. In other situations, a relative or family friend may assume care of these children, whether on a permanent or temporary basis.
The advantages of someone with an established relationship with the child assuming responsibility for his or her welfare over placing the child in the care of strangers should be evident. However, the state of Kentucky currently does little to reward the generosity of these individuals and couples in terms of financial support. Foster parents licensed with the state receive $750 a month in state assistance for every child they take in. By contrast, most relative and fictive kin caregivers do not qualify for state assistance at all.
Legislation that state lawmakers recently passed addresses the situation to a certain degree. It provides some relative and fictive kin caregivers with $350 per month to assist with expenses such as health care and childcare. It is not clear whether the amount provided in assistance increases if caregivers take in more than one child, e.g., two biological siblings originating from the same household. However, the state is clear that only children in the state system qualify, meaning that caregivers who made a private arrangement with the parents to receive the child or children are out of luck, although the leader of an advocacy group for kinship families is planning to push lawmakers to change that.
The fact that most kinship families in Kentucky receive little or no state assistance may contribute to the rate of relative foster care in Kentucky being the lowest in the nation. Relative and fictive kin caregivers fear to lose the children to the foster care system due to an inability to support them financially and may resort to desperate measures to earn extra funds, such as working extra hours or selling plasma.
Family law matters are complex, and those with questions or problems related to custody or foster care may benefit from engaging the services of an attorney.