On Wednesday March 27th 2019 at 10:30am a call in meeting was held between the First Lady of Kentucky; Glenna Bevin and special advisors to the Governor and First Lady; Chris and Alicia Johnson, to discuss the Uniting Kentucky initiative which was created by Glenna Bevin, the Orphan Care Alliance, KY Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Focus on the Family’s Wait No More and the Dept. for Community Based Services. In addition to the above speakers for said meeting, the Beattyville Enterprise was asked to sit in on the phone call. Representing the Beattyville Enterprise was assoc. editor; Kara Thorpe. Moderating the meeting was Gary Gupton of the Office of Gov. Matt begin and Strategic Communications. The main focuses of said initiative are finding foster parents or potential adoptive parents to children in the state who are in need of a family and for rallying the support of the community towards current and future fostering or adoptive families.
Glenna Bevin was first to speak on the phone call and started off by telling her story of how she became involved in the Kentucky foster care system. She stated that more than ten years ago she had brought her children to a park in Louisville where they played with an eleven year old girl who was also there and upon leaving Mrs. Bevin asked to meet the little girls parents to schedule another “playdate” between the little girl and Bevin’s children. The little girl stated that she had no parents and lived at the St. Joe Orphanage.
After that day, Glenna and husband Matt spent more than a year and a half trying to adopt this same little girl out of St. Joe. After much time, effort and heartache they were unfortunately denied due to the fact that they already had five biological children of their own. The Ky First Lady stated that they would have had an easier time adopting a child from Africa than in Kentucky. Later in 2015 when her husband Mat Bevin decided to run for Governor of Kentucky, Glenna knew that her platform would be Kentucky’s adoption and foster care system to focus on quickening the process for potential parents or caregivers.
Current day, Matt and Glenna have since adopted four children from Ethiopia who were between the ages of two and ten at the time of adoption. Glenna stated that all children both adoptive and biological were homeschooled until her adoptive children were fluent enough in the English language. The eleven member Bevin family is the largest to inhabit the Kentucky’s Governor Mansion. Glenna stated that as much as she wanted to make an impact on her adoptive children’s lives, they have also been one of the biggest blessings on her own life.
Second to speak was Chris Johnson. Chris and his wife Alicia have so far been foster parents to over forty children. Chris stated the number of kids in foster care in Kentucky is at record height. This is most commonly associated with Kentucky Opioid epidemic. Chris stated that these kids in the system desperately need both fostering or adoptive parents in their life as soon as possible. He also stated that the families or biological parents of these children need support as well to get their lives cleaned up. And not only do the biological families need support, the fostering and adoptive families do as well. His wife Alicia stated that her reason behind fostering as many children as they have has been that she wanted to help parents take care of their kids while they better themselves. She stated it has been much more rewarding than she ever imagined.
The meeting focused on the fact that there are at least three ways that everyone can help the children in foster care even if they are unable to offer their home temporarily or permanently. The obvious first two ways are to foster or adopt if able but the third being to be as supportive as possible to anyone in your community who have opened their homes to these children. This can be as simple as offering rides to school or practices, including these children in your own children’s events such as birthday parties, weekend outings, churches or youth groups. These families who have decided to care for foster children often deal with a lot of worry and stress in order to make a difference in these lives of children. A kind gesture would go a long way and be much appreciated.
Another closing focus was geared towards teens in the system. Teens who are soon to be aging out of the system at eighteen need families more than ever. The statistics show that children who are never adopted and spend their life up to age eighteen in the system usually do not succeed well in their adult life. They deserve a stable and positive family environment before their adult life begins.
Upon closing Glenna Bevin answered the question that was asked from the BE being what would she have to say to the individuals who state their reason for not becoming a foster parent is because they do not want to get attached to the child and then have to give them back. Glenna answered that her greatest joy was welcoming them into her home and that any amount of hurt she feels reminds her that she has given her all to make the difference in their lives. Chris Johnson also answered this question by saying that prior to he and his wife becoming seasoned foster parents, that this was too their concern. They consulted in their pastor on this matter and his response to them was “are you doing this for you or are you doing this for the child?”
As you may know, there are 10 Lee County children living in foster care right now.That is a fraction of the nearly 10,000 Kentucky kids who, for no fault of their own, are no longer able to safely live with their moms or dads. If you wish to learn more on what you can do to help, please consider attending one of then next Uniting Kentucky Next Steps Events: April 15, 2019 6:30pm at Rose Hill Baptist Church, Ashland, KY and April 16, 2019 6:30pm at First Baptist Church, Pikeville, KY.