FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – The Kentucky Senate Majority caucus has sent a letter to Gov. Andy Beshear, asking to have the Cabinet for Health and Family Services approve the renewal of the contract with Sunrise Children’s Services for another year.
In the letter, sent to the governor on Friday, the members state: “Reports from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that our Commonwealth has led the nation in child abuse and neglect for three consecutive years. Of even more concern is that reports of child abuse and neglect have decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic - alarming child welfare professionals that child abuse and neglect is not decreasing, but rather going unreported as schools have remained closed and access to childcare has been limited.”
They say those professionals all acknowledge that the best way to identify and prevent child abuse and neglect is for communities to unite and maintain strong partnerships with our social services system.
The letter, signed by 27 Senate Republicans, points out that, “Sunrise Children's Services has been a perennial partner of our Commonwealth for decades - meeting the needs of our families and children in a variety of ways through foster care, adoption, family preservation services, therapeutic foster care, and psychiatric residential treatment services. Sunrise is also one our state's largest child welfare providers - caring for approximately 1,000 children each year.
“As we regretfully continue to lead the nation in child abuse and neglect and realize the impact the pandemic has had on vulnerable children, we simply cannot lose access to the quality services that Sunrise Children's Services provides to families across our state. Now is the time for your administration to build community partnerships and supports around our families rather than alienating and dismissing a proven quality community service provider such as Sunrise.”
The letter said there is a provision in the Executive Branch Budget Bill, “that prohibits the Cabinet's ability to interfere with a children's services contractors' sincerely held religious convictions while also requiring that a different contractor deliver services when an organization's religious convictions are conflicted. This provision is fair, reasonable, and in the best interest of everyone - most importantly our families and children. We urge you and the Cabinet to make every effort to resolve this matter by entering into a good faith contract negotiation and maintain partnership with Sunrise Children's Services. Our families and vulnerable children deserve nothing less. “
Sunrise Children Services and the state have until June 30 to sign a contract or they will cease to be partners, a partnership that has existed to benefit Kentucky children since the 1970s.
The House Majority caucus sent a similar letter to Gov. Beshear earlier in the week.