Kentucky’s First Lady, Glenna Bevin, was in Owensboro today to begin discussions of her Community Engagement Initiative, focusing on the foster care needs of the Commonwealth. Among those in attendance were local representatives from Audubon Area Community Services, CASA, Owensboro Health, Department for Community Based Services, Daviess County Attorney Claud Porter and Daviess County Court Judge Julie Gordon.
The First Lady’s Community Engagement Initiative is a response to the 8,500 children in foster care in Kentucky, who she says the state is not equipped to assist in a way that provides a positive family outcome. Her initiative aims at bringing a message of partnership and community involvement to help solve the foster care problem Kentucky faces.
“This is my passion, and I know it will be a lot of work,” First Lady Bevin said. But she says she is willing to get Daviess County the help it needs to address these foster care issues locally.
Pastor Edward L. Palmer Sr. spoke at today’s meeting, giving Daviess County child welfare stakeholders in attendance an overview of what program implementation will look like. Palmer is a church pastor in Radcliff, Kentucky and also serves on the Radcliff City Council. He was appointed as Chair for the Kentucky Subcommittee on Equity and Justice for All Youth (SEJAY), and is a member of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board (JJAB). His unique position in Radcliff has provided the leadership needed to implement the First Lady’s initiative in Hardin County.
Palmer says Daviess County will be the next focus, with committee formation happening in the next couple of weeks. McCrackern, Fayette and Jefferson counties will see this initiative in the future.
There are three phases to the First Lady’s initiative, the first being education and data collection. Once an in-depth assessment of local foster care needs has been created, phase two will involve the mobilization of community partners and addressing the possible threats to success like limited transportation, visitation locations, and minority barriers that can have a direct effect on children in foster care. Finally, the initiative would like to empower Daviess County to seek grant funding, management resources and technical assistance to keep the initiative’s momentum moving forward.
“Our number one intent is to prevent trauma in the child,” Palmer said. And he says that means focusing on the whole foster care continuum – from the first contact with foster care; before, after and during removal; after reunification; and when aging out of the system.
In order to build something sustainable, the First Lady will be visiting Owensboro often in the next few months to have program-building conversations with Owensboro organizations like CASA and Audubon Area as well as Daviess County Family Court and others. Owensboro can expect a large program kick off in about two months.