Improving the well-being of Kentucky's children was the theme of a regional conference in Lexington on Monday. Policymakers, stakeholders, and representatives from numerous child advocacy groups shared their ideas at the Step Up For Kids event. Attendees heard presentations on everything from early childhood and alternative education, monitoring managed care, as well as curbing incarcerations for youth misbehaviors like skipping school and running away from home.
Damon Preston, with the Department of Public Advocacy, says it is not logical to send a child to jail for refusing to attend classes.
"The idea that you lock up a child and that'll show him a lesson and that he'll never do it again just doesn't work. In fact, it does just the opposite. Research shows children that are incarcerated are actually more likely to commit crimes in the future, and that's because of that graduate school thing. They are learning how to commit crimes when they go to jail."
Preston says incarcerated children are also more likely to be sexually abused by either a staff-member or a fellow inmate. A bill proposed by Lexington Representative Kelly Flood would place more restrictions on the incarceration of so-called status offenders.
Cate Mart, with the Central Kentucky Economic Empowerment Project, says Kentucky needs to join other states and enact a state-level refundable earned income tax credit to help working families well below the federal poverty line.
"Studies show that when families receive their federal EITC checks they quickly spend them on things like groceries, childcare, transportation and healthcare costs. Because they spend the money locally on necessities, it strengthens the local economy. A refundable, state-level EITC in Kentucky would help low-income working Kentuckians keep more of their hard earned money and reduce inequalities in the system."
In his recent budget speech, Governor Beshear urged lawmakers take a hard look at tax reform in the current legislative session.
Various groups will take their messages to Frankfort on February 16th; Children's Advocacy Day at the Capitol.
Monday's event was jointly sponsored by United Way of the Bluegrass, the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, and WUKY.