Relatives raising children because of abuse, neglect may get help from Kentucky program

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TAYLOR MILL, Ky. – Pennie Tackett's granddaughter, Karma Jordan, has aspirations to one day be in the Olympics.

Tackett hopes revival of a state funding program may put Karma on a path toward potentially realizing that dream.

During his State of the Commonwealth address Jan. 16, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin spoke of initiating budget cuts in a number of areas. However, what stood out for Tackett and likely other seniors raising grandchildren or family members on their own were areas where funding may actually resume. Specifically, a program called Kinship Care, which was suspended in 2013.

Kinship Care is a program that pays a monthly stipend to relatives who take in children removed from homes because of abuse or neglect. At the time, the program provided $300 per child per month to relatives.

Bevin has proposed $1.8 million for the program in fiscal year 2018-2019 and $3.3 million in fiscal year 2019-2020.

Tackett said receiving any type of assistance would have a dramatic impact, possibly even a life-changing one, on her.

Tackett, a resident of Taylor Mill, Kentucky, began taking care of Jordan, who is 8, after Jordan's parents were evicted in 2011. Tackett had applied for Kinship Care but was denied because she had taken over guardianship as opposed to the state placing Jordan in her care.

However, Tackett said she was informed she could potentially be eligible for funding when the program resumes.

Tackett works 20 hours a week with Mental Health of America where she serves as a family peer support specialist. She also provides caregiving for her husband who suffered a severe back injury years ago.

With the added financial pressures, Tackett and her husband eventually had to move from their home to an apartment. She said she has also had to stand in line for food and clothing.

"I know what it is like to not have your basic needs met," she said.

Through her involvement with Mental Health of America, Tackett said she is aware of the financial burdens many other seniors face.

The return of Kinship Care would mean a lot to any grandparent, she said.

Anne Wildman, associate director of human services for the Northern Kentucky Area Development District, is also aware of the many challenges seniors deal with.

When the Kinship Care program went away, that left a giant hole, she said.

"We have worked with a lot of relatives, specifically grandparents, raising grandchildren," Wildman said. "They don't want the children to go into a foster care system."

"(However) a lot of times these grandparents don’t have the financial means to support the individuals they are taking into their home."

Wildman said while other factors exist, the opioid epidemic has contributed to a steadily increasing rise in the number of grandparents taking over guardianship.

A lot of these parents are unable to take care of their children because of drug addiction and complications that go along with overdoses, she said. Incarceration and rehabilitation can also be involved.

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