Child advocates in Kentucky say a new federal law aims to help at-risk families and prevent youth from entering the foster care system.
While it doesn't provide any new funding, the Family First Prevention Services Act signed by President Donald Trump last year gives states more flexibility in how they spend federal money on child welfare.
Kentucky says it will invest more at the front-end of cases by supporting families with things such as parenting education, substance abuse resources, and mental health services.
Jessica Brown, executive advisor in the Department for Community Based Services, says the goal is to keep more families together.
"Any time we can reduce separation from their family of origin, it will help reduce trauma for children," Brown told WKU Public Radio. "We know there are poorer outcomes for children that linger in the foster care system, particularly in a congregant care setting."
DCBS Commissioner Eric Clark said in a news release that of the approximately 9,700 Kentucky children in out-of-home care, most are moved from their home because of neglect, with the kinds of risk factors that could be addressed through preventative services.
If children must be removed from their biological parents, the FFPSA places special emphasis on placing those children in kinship or relative foster care.
States have until October 2021 to implement the new law, but Kentucky plans to roll out its provisions starting Oct. 1 of this year.
Child welfare officials will explain how the new law works at nine public forums across Kentucky this summer, including in Pulaski County on June 12 at Somerset Community College and in Daviess County on June 26 at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital. All meetings will be held from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. local time.