As 2014 began, there were over 7,000 children in out-of-home care in the custody of the Commonwealth. The Cabinet for Health & Family Services entrusts over half of those children to private child welfare providers throughout Kentucky. Services to keep these children safe are funded through a pure public/private partnership where many providers raise significant donor dollars to supplement the increasingly inadequate reimbursement rates paid by the Department for Community Based Services. The system that so many children and families depend on had reached a critical point where additional funds were necessary to avert a disastrous result.
With a biennial budget system, the opportunity to obtain additional funding for services only comes around every two years. If the system was to survive the financial pressure it was enduring, we had to secure an appropriation and corresponding rate increase from the General Assembly during the 2014 Regular Session. We had spent years building a grassroots network consisting of local volunteer Board members from Children’s Alliance agencies, advocates, professionals, and child welfare staff. We invested months educating legislators and legislative staff about the need for additional resources, as well as the dire consequences for children if the already strained system wasn’t funded adequately.
After laying the groundwork through months of advocacy, education and relationship building, we developed a detailed plan of action to secure an appropriation in a very challenging fiscal environment.
Despite a gloomy budget forecast, and amid a variety of budget cuts throughout state government, we were successful in our efforts to achieve an increase of $8 million of state general funds each year of the biennium. When matched with federal dollars, this infusion of funding made a substantial difference as the child welfare system continues to build resources to reach and treat Kentucky children in need.