A statement by Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director, Kentucky Youth Advocates
What's the old aphorism? “Where the rubber hits the road.”
In Frankfort, the rubber really hits the road around our leaders’ true priorities when that state budget gets crafted. And now is that time, as the Senate and House come together for the budget Conference Committee. There are abundant reasons for optimism when it comes to supporting kids, but we also have to be realistic in knowing that there is ambiguity at play. Our lawmakers have built a track record of policy wins for Kentucky kids. Now is the time to build a parallel track record for state budget investments for all of the Commonwealth’s children.
In the Senate state budget proposal, we see several points to celebrate for Kentucky kids and families:
- Increased investment in the Department for Community Based Services workforce, as well as a creative proposal that could allow workers respite from the frontlines.
- Sustained funding for the HANDS in-home visiting program to ensure this service is available to and utilized by new parents across Kentucky.
- Increased funds for the School Food Services Program so students have access to nutritious meals at school.
- Increased per-pupil SEEK funding and sustained supports for school-based health services.
- Increased funding for Family Resource and Youth Service Centers (FRYSCs), who work with families to remove barriers to student learning and have been a critical lifeline throughout the pandemic.
- Increased funding for domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, and Children's Advocacy Centers, all of which provide vital services to survivors of abuse.
- Allocated funds for the implementation of the new suicide prevention hotline.
As budget deliberations continue and the state budget advances to Conference Committee, the Blueprint for Kentucky's Children urges lawmakers to consider this pragmatic checklist for a kid-focused budget:
- The earlier we invest in our kids, the better the return. Access to child care is essential to a functioning economy, but we see insufficient state investment for boosting access to affordable, high-quality care for our infants and toddlers. Kentucky can support the needs of our parents, babies and early learners, and workforce by maintaining present levels of eligibility and reimbursement rate for Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and support employer-based subsidies by creating the Kentucky Child Care Assistance Partnership.
- Continued funding for full day kindergarten would be an investment in our youngest Kentuckians’ futures as it boosts students’ academic achievement and strengthens their social and emotional skills.
- Kentucky can expand investments in child abuse forensic services, to include Pediatric Forensic Medicine at Kentucky’s medical schools, so all children who experience maltreatment can receive the best care.
- During this time of heightened social and emotional needs, schools, healthcare providers, and other entities interacting with children and families must elevate efforts to identify signs of stress, anxiety, and depression. Kentucky can boost its funding allocation for school-based health providers and behavioral health services.
- Kentucky can boost investments in tobacco use prevention and cessation programming to curb use among youth and pregnant women.
- Kentucky can support the health and well-being of new mothers by increasing Medicaid funding to support health coverage for up to 12 months postpartum.
Kentucky's over one million kids are counting on the House, Senate, and Governor to prioritize them as the budget process advances into the Conference Committee – where the rubber truly meets the road.
Learn more about the 2022 Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children agenda. Stay up-to-date on Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children priorities and bills that are good for kids on our Kentucky General Assembly Bill Tracker.