Recent bills prioritize children, families

Rep. Walker Thomas represents the 8th House District, which includes parts of Christian and Trigg Counties. Contact him with any questions, concerns, or advice. He can be reached at 270-889-8091, or via e-mail at Walker.Thomas@lrc.ky.gov.

Strengthening Kentucky families has been a recurring theme this week, as there has been a great deal of bipartisan legislative activity putting families and children first.

It was no coincidence that the Kentucky Youth Advocates, an organization dedicated to the well-being of children and families, arrived at the Capitol for their annual legislative advocacy day during a week of great successes for children and families. Legislation to protect the life of the unborn, promote the rights of foster children, support families within the kinship care program and more began moving through the legislative process.

It has often been said that the numbers attached to bills indicate their priority level. That is certainly true of HB 2, a measure which seeks to prepare us to receive federal funding for Kentucky's kinship and fictive care program. In 2013, Governor Beshear put a freeze on applicants to Kinship Care, a program which was dedicated to providing caregivers of children in need with $300 a month to help support the children they have taken in. The General Assembly allocated $5.1 million last year to begin ramping this valuable program back up, but significantly more must be done.

We are heading in that direction with HB 2. While this legislation is by no means the ultimate solution, it sets us on the right path to supporting those who take care of Kentucky's most vulnerable. Prioritizing Kinship Care is critical, as it is preferable to sending children through the foster care system in numerous ways. For one, it costs significantly less for taxpayers, and secondly, there is nothing more supportive than a loving family member, coach, or other caring adult who will take a child into their home.

Protecting the life of the unborn is once again on full display as well, a common theme since Republicans took control of the Kentucky House. The Judiciary Committee recently passed HB 148 - a measure which seeks to prepare Kentucky for the possibility that the Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade by prohibiting abortion in all cases except when required to save the life of the mother or prevent serious harm to her. The Senate also passed SB 9, a measure which bans abortion after a child's heartbeat can be detected.

Another pro-life measure moving out of committee was HB 158, which would create a foster child bill of rights and make numerous other improvements to child welfare. This legislation would give statutory rights to foster children - including the right to adequate food, clothing and shelter, a quality education, and a safe, secure, and stable family. These are just a few of the 16 rights granted in this legislation, which also improves background checks on the staff of child care facilities and child-placement agencies

This bill builds on the bipartisan successes of HB 1 during the 2018 General Assembly Session, which made transformative adoption and foster care reforms designed to reduce wait times and remove barriers to providing a child with a loving home. Between that legislation and the improvements within HB 158 this year, Kentucky is well on its way to becoming a national model for handling children in out-of-home-care.

These priority measures are proof that our House majority cares not only about protecting the life of the unborn, but being pro-life in every sense. We must do all we can to boost the health and well-being of our children and families, particularly Kentucky's most vulnerable.

While pro-life, pro-family issues are certainly top priorities, I know that there are other issues you care about as well. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with your thoughts on any issue important to you.

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