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"Fictive Kin" Bill Proposed to Give Kentucky Kids a Safe Home

Public News Service

A bill moving through the Kentucky General Assembly expands the state's options for immediate placement of children who are removed from their homes for safety reasons.

House Bill 180 would clear the way for kids to be placed with close family friends, often known as "fictive kin," reducing the strain on the child and the foster-care system.

Tim Feeley, now a deputy secretary in Kentucky's Health and Family Services Cabinet, is a former circuit judge.

"For 11 years on Family Court bench, there were many times when I found there was a non-blood relative who was really the appropriate place, maybe a babysitter, a church member, a neighbor," he said. "Sometimes, there's people who are not blood relatives who the child is very safe with, very comfortable with."

The legislation, which passed the House last week and out of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee yesterday, removes some of the red tape that often keeps the state from placing a child with someone they trust but who isn't a relative.

The bill's primary sponsor, Rep. Addia Wuchner, says the legislation will get more people involved who are willing to step in and fill the gaps in the system.

"I think it gives the court and the judge a sense of, 'We can do more for the child,'" she said. "We can help the child not to be, in a sense, almost like doubly victimized - in that they're having to be removed from their home, that is traumatic enough."

Wuchner says her bill requires background checks on everyone in a fictive-kin household.

Feeley says he's comfortable with the safeguards built into the legislation.

"You go into a house and you have a three-or four-year-old there and the police are taking mom and dad away in handcuffs because of drug use, and the next door neighbor shows up, and the three- or four-year-old runs over and puts their arms around that one," Feeley added. "That's often a good indication that that's somebody the child would feel safe with."

Feeley says the fictive kin legislation is common sense measure as the state works on a complete review and overhaul of its adoption and foster care system.

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