Norma Hatfield had to read the budget line twice Tuesday night to make sure she saw it correctly.
Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget proposal set aside money for Kinship Care, which provides financial assistance to relatives raising a child not their own. The program ended in 2013, and Hatfield has long advocated for its return.
“I don’t even know words to describe how I feel,” said Hatfield, who has been raising her granddaughter for three years. “This is huge that there’s already a budget line in.”
The budget proposal includes $10.8 million in new funding for adoption and foster children support and $34 million in new funding from tobacco settlement money to fight the opioid epidemic and substance abuse. Additionally, the budget has an additional $24 million to add positions and increase salaries for state social workers.
Hatfield sees the issues as related.
“We have taken care of those affected (by the opioid epidemic) while we try to fix the problem,” she said.
The proposal appropriates $1.8 million for fiscal year 2018 and $3.3 million for fiscal year 2019 and lifts the moratorium on Kinship Care. When the program ended in 2013, relatives received about $300 a month.
State Sen. Dennis Parrett, D-Elizabethtown, has sponsored a bill that also would bring back Kinship Care.
He said he didn’t know the program was going to be included in the budget proposal.
“I’m certainly elated,” he said.
Parrett said he’s going to keep Senate Bill 31 in the works because the budget first has to be approved.
He said having Kinship Care included in the budget proposal is “an important step.”
In the state, about 428 children in foster care have been placed with a relative. In the Salt River region, which includes Hardin County, 104 children have been placed with a relative.
Hatfield said she still has questions about the program’s implementation and who will receive assistance, but she’s glad to see the state is planning to do something for the families.
“I’m grateful the governor did that,” she said.
Hatfield said she’s going to continue lobbying legislators to support the program. Parrett’s bill has five other sponsors and has been referred to the Health and Welfare Committee.
“We’re so close,” she said.