Kentucky Youth Advocates, a partner in the Kentucky Smart on Crime Coalition, analyzed the newest U.S. Census Bureau data from 2016-2018 and found that the Bluegrass State continues to have the highest-in-the-nation rate of children raised by a relative.   Compared to the previous period from 2013-2015, the numbers have nearly doubled from 53,000 to 96,000 children.  Nine percent of KY kids are now in the care of a relative, more than double the national average of four percent. The group cited parental substance abuse or incarceration as two of the key drivers of growth of children being cared for by grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members.

In January, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reported KY’s incarceration rate is surging even as the nation’s incarceration rate declined for the third consecutive year.  KY now has the ninth-highest incarceration rate in the nation, up from eleventh-highest in the prior ranking.

The Commonwealth’s female incarceration rate is more than two times the national average and now stands at the second highest in America, compared with fifth in the prior ranking.  Kentucky also ranks second highest among states and nearly double the national rate in children who have experienced parental incarceration.

“These trendlines cannot be ignored,” said Daniel Cameron, spokesman for the Kentucky Smart on Crime Coalition. “It is important leaders in Frankfort focus on policies that expand treatment, so we can end the revolving door of incarceration and break the vicious cycle of substance abuse.”

Kentucky Youth Advocates’ latest release comes on the heels of the organization’s  issue brief, Minimizing the Impact of Parental Incarceration on Children, which was released in February, and demonstrated the economic and social consequences of Kentucky’s surging incarceration rate, which often results in a “shared sentence” between children and adults. As the brief points out, nearly seventy-one percent of women incarcerated in Kentucky have a child. Most of those women are incarcerated for low-level offenses.

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