Grandparents need Kentucky legislature to increase KTAP support

Federal money is there for kinship caregivers struggling to provide for children whose biological parents cannot

January 31, 2023 5:40 am

Grandparents are caring for 58,000 children in Kentucky, often because of prior neglect or abuse. (Getty Images)

Robert F. Kennedy said, “The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things
better.” For the children of Kentucky, we certainly have our work cut out for us.

For several years, Kentucky was No. 1  in child abuse and neglect. Right now, we’re ranked
No. 5. 1  We place many of these children with relatives or with close family
friends in what is known as “kinship care.”

The kinship care relatives aren’t the biological parents but are grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, even older siblings. In Kentucky, there are approximately 59,000 children raised in kinship care. Of those 59,000 children, 58,000 kids are being raised by their grandparents.

What’s troubling is when these children are placed with kinship caregivers and into the child
welfare system, there’s just not enough supports for them. While we are slowly getting better,
we just aren’t where we should be.

It’s important to note that many kinship caregivers have worked all their lives and contributed to society. I’ve had communications with thousands across Kentucky who are struggling as they take these kids in and do their best with very little.

Some are in their 40s and 50s and oftentimes lose their jobs because they take in babies born
addicted to drugs; some lose their jobs because traumatized kids require so much therapy and
treatments that they just can’t work; some are in their 60s and 70s living on Social Security or
disability. Many are taking more than one child. For example, sibling groups of three to five children.

Over time, they’re draining savings accounts, losing their cars and homes all in the goal of
keeping these kids out of foster care.

One of the resources that Kentucky legislators and the Department for Community Based
Services (DCBS) have pointed relative-kinship caregivers towards is the Kentucky
Transitional Assistance Program (KTAP). KTAP is temporary financial assistance for those who are at
40% and below the federal poverty level (FPL). For example, that’s a family of four with a
gross income of about $1,096 a month.

There are many things about KTAP that should be changed at both the state and federal level, but
right now our Kentucky legislators have a big opportunity to help families as DCBS has
proposed an increase in the amount allocation. According to DCBS during an administrative
hearing on Dec. 13, these federal funds are already available and do not affect the
Kentucky state budget.

When I first became aware of the proposed KTAP increase, I was shocked to learn that the
monthly amount that families receive hasn’t been increased since December 1995. There’s been
no consideration to inflation or cost of living whatsoever.

From 1995 till now, this program, for example, has provided someone with four children only $328 a month. Now, DCBS wants to increase that to $656 a month, which in a period of 27 years is seriously overdue, especially with
the levels of inflation today.

In good conscience, I have to ask: How is it acceptable to keep benefits for these low-
income families — those struggling to keep traumatized and abused children out of foster care — at the same level for 27 years? How is that okay?

At the Dec. 13 hearing, former Rep. Mary Lou Marzian  she shared that the
legislature voted its members a cost of living raise; Marzian  shared that it’s also important for  lawmakers
to take care of our vulnerable kids and these families.

So many of us have received some type of cost of living increase over the years, but our low-income families have been forgotten. It’s time to do the right thing.

I know many of our legislators, and they work hard on behalf of the kids of Kentucky. In fact,
many are champions for our children. We need them all to step up and address this
oversight right away – an oversight that is almost three decades old.

The KTAP funds are there and for this purpose. Legislators need to approve the proposed KTAP regulations
to help our Kentucky families now.

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Norma Hatfield
Norma Hatfield

Norma Hatfield is a grandmother who has been raising two grandchildren for the past eight years in Elizabethtown. She is president of the Kinship Families Coalition of Kentucky and a member of the Grand Voice Network with Generations United.