As the Kentucky House and Senate take up Gov. Bevin’s budget proposal, we urge lawmakers to leave intact two proposals – to add $4.8 million in funding over the next two years to increase starting salaries of state social workers and a $1.5 million increase over the same time period for the state’s Child Advocacy Centers.
Providing more competitive and higher salaries for social workers – who investigate allegations of child abuse and neglect and manage foster care and adoptions – should help reduce high turnover and chronic staff shortages, and may help reduce burdensome caseloads carried by existing staff. Currently, the state starts social workers at $32,500 a year, so the additional funds to pay for higher salaries and perhaps hire some new social workers will reduce stress on and in the system.
The proposed funding increase for Child Advocacy Centers – there are 15 across the commonwealth, including the Kosair Charities Child Advocacy Center (KCCAC) in Louisville – is the first since 2008, and will help ensure professional and compassionate care for all child victims of sexual abuse. Reducing child abuse also is a priority for First Lady Glenna Bevin, who visited the Family & Children’s Place KCCAC last year.
Statewide, child advocacy centers serve more than 6,000 children annually. The KCCAC sees more than 1,300 of those children from Jefferson and surrounding counties in Kentucky and Indiana, and the numbers are sadly going up. Services provided by CACs include medical exams, forensic interviews, mental health services, family advocacy, with professionals collaborating to reduce trauma, seek justice and provide hope and healing for children and their non-offending caregivers.
Both funding proposals reflect government’s most basic commitment – to look out for the health and welfare of its most vulnerable citizens, and send a powerful signal that the new governor cares about Kentucky kids and is willing to increase funding to ensure abused and at-risk children get the best possible care and services.
We trust lawmakers in the Kentucky House and Senate will agree.