There is no denying Kentucky needs to fix its foster care and adoption systems.
Gov. Matt Bevin, who has adopted four children with his wife in addition to having five of their own biological children, has worked tirelessly since he’s been in office on this issue. But, the issue is far from settled.
While state lawmakers passed several bills in this year’s session, there is more work to be done to find homes for the more than 8,500 children in state custody.
In March, Bevin launched the “Open Hearts/Open Homes” initiative to help find those “forever homes” for children who are eligible for adoption.
“There should not be any child in Kentucky — able to be adopted, ready to be adopted, wanting to be adopted — who does not have a home,” Bevin said at the time.
We applauded the initiative as a smart move.
However, we have questions about his latest move in appointing Dan Dumas to lead efforts to reform the state’s foster care and adoption systems.
A legislative committee recently approved a non-bid consulting contract for Dumas who will be paid $240,000, which is well more than Bevin’s salary and $80,000 more than what the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Human Services is paid.
At a time when Kentucky is facing a budget shortfall and has asked agencies to make further cuts — on top of many previous cuts — Dumas’ pay makes little sense.
While yes, the foster care and adoption systems need to be fixed, is it really necessary to pay someone $240,000 for suggestions? The contract also comes at a time when Republican House Speaker Jeff Hover appointed an adoption task force which is meeting over the summer to craft legislation to help overhaul the system.
Bevin’s Executive Cabinet Secretary Scott Brinkman said the governor wanted to “bring in an outsider with a fresh eye or perspective, someone who’s not burdened with the old way of doing things.”
We agree bringing in an outsider is a good idea, but once again, is the money worth it? Could Dumas not have been appointed as an outsider on the task force? Or even received just half of the $240,000?
There is no doubt work must be done and children need to be protected and be in loving homes. However, paying someone $240,000 to come up with ideas while a task force has been created to do the same is head scratching.
We’re not saying Dumas is the wrong choice. He very well may be the perfect choice. We just hope Bevin is correct in his selection and the money is well spent.
With the recent three-month, 500-child increase in the number of children in state custody, significant improvements need to be made to the adoption and foster care systems.
Bevin was spot on when he said, “These precious kids need homes where they can always feel safe and always return to, even when they are grown. We never stop needing a family to love us.”
Let’s hope Dumas can give truly transformative ideas and Kentucky can fix a broken system.
Otherwise, Bevin’s investment and Kentucky’s future will be in bad shape.