foster care

Flickr/Creative Commons/John Bratseth

Dozens of counties in Kentucky are in need of volunteers to serve on foster care review boards.

The boards consider the cases of children placed in foster care because of dependency, neglect, and abuse. State law mandates that there be at least three volunteers on each board, although more are often needed due to heavy caseloads.

Dolores Smith, an Owensboro-based supervisor with the Department of Family and Juvenile Services, says the state laws creating the foster care review boards cast a wide net in terms of who is qualified to serve.

“(The statutes) mention folks with backgrounds in education, medicine, law, social work, and psychology,” Smith said. “But the overwhelming area they mention is that volunteers should have a genuine concern for child welfare.”

The goal of the foster care review boards, Smith said, is to find a safe, permanent home for children placed in the state’s custody.

A new report says Kentucky and other states could do a better job of placing children in the foster care system with families instead of group care.

The Kids Count report, released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Kentucky Youth Advocates, says 18 percent of the 7,211 children put into foster care in 2013 in Kentucky were placed in group settings. The data showed 81 percent were placed in family settings. The report says 30 states do a better job of finding family placements for foster children.

Kentucky Youth Advocates said progress has been made over the last year in placements. In addition, the state has begun to offer more in-home services and has changed how children are assessed when they come into the foster care system.

A Warren County group dedicated to providing safe environments for all children hopes more families will consider adoption.

November is adoption awareness month, and the Family Enrichment Center is hoping to shine the spotlight on kids of all ages who are looking for what's known as "forever homes." The group's Board of Directors Chair, Jennifer Brinkley, says a new adoption resource center in Bowling Green is aimed at helping interested parties navigate the often complicated adoption process.

"There are over 120 children in our region who are currently waiting to be adopted," Brinkley told WKU Public Radio. "So it's an important resource when people don't know how to go about the process."

"The Family Enrichment Center, through that adoption resources center, can really help those families."

Brinkley says she often advises families interested in adoption to consider children other than newborns. She says there are many older children-including teenagers-who are eligible for adoption.

An estimated 7,000 Kentucky children are currently in foster care, residential homes, or detention facilities.

This Saturday, a "Project Match" event will be held in Daviess County, to enable those in the area to learn more about foster care and adoption. State officials in Kentucky say more  than 6,000 children in the state are currently in foster care.