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Nine percent of children in Kentucky are being raised by relatives other than their parents — often by grandparents who are living on fixed incomes. That’s more than double the nationwide rate. Part of the reason is that Kentucky has more parents in prison than nearly any other state.

Over 15,000 Kentucky children have been placed in a relative’s care by the state. However, in most cases, the living arrangements aren’t codified by any court order or legal agreement.

Many of these families are facing financial hardships because, unlike foster parents, they don’t receive payment from the state. There have been efforts to restore a program called Kinship Care that paid relatives who took in children who were removed by the state $300 every month. That’s still less than half of what supporting the foster care system costs the state. Kinship Care ended five years ago due to lack of funding. Financial issues are still what’s keeping it from being reinstated.

Some people have also filed a federal lawsuit against the state to seek foster pay for family members who take in children who can’t be cared for by their parents. The state, which is fighting the suit, claims it is in the process of a “child welfare transformation” supported by Gov. Bevin and his wife, who have four adopted children. They have been advocates for reforming Kentucky’s foster care system.

In the meantime, many families are still opting to do their best to take care of young relatives rather than let the state place them in the foster care system. If you’ve taken in a child whose own parents weren’t able to, it may be wise to seek legal guidance from an experienced Kentucky family law attorney to seek the rights you need to protect and care for them.