KYA: Independent voice for children and families

Published 9:32 am Monday, February 19, 2018

Children in Kentucky struggling with challenges and obstacles have a hero that works to develop policies in Frankfort in attempts to make the state one of the best places for them to grow up.

Kentucky Youth Advocates is an independent voice for kids, said chief policy officer Tara Grieshop-Goodwin during a recent meeting of the Women’s Network in Danville. She said the 40-year-old agency “doesn’t take government money, so we can be an advocate for children and not be hampered by funding streams.”

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Grieshop-Goodwin said KYA also works in conjunction with other coalitions and agencies to advocate for laws concerning adoption, family court, adult incarceration, transportation, poverty, child care, tax reform, agencies’ funding, substance abuse programs and even a cigarette tax — all issues that can ultimately affect children.

Grieshop-Goodwin said when all of the partners convene and look at children’s issues as a whole, “That’s how we are most effective in coming together in Frankfort and getting changes in place for kids.”

KYA occasionally works with families directly when they are having a hard time navigating the state’s support system. “We help to find solutions and resources,” Grieshop-Goodwin said, adding that family preservation is an important piece in a complicated situation. “Housing and food can be stressors on a family.”

Children thrive much better when their lives are stable, they attend the same school regularly, the home is a safe environment, parents are financially secure and enough food is on the table. But that isn’t always real life, Grieshop-Goodwin said.

The drug epidemic is sending a lot of parents to jail, leaving behind children who have to be placed with family members, in foster care or in group homes — sometimes more than once.  Abuse and neglect are often interwoven in these cases too, she said.

“We can do better on these issues. We can make changes that are going to make for safer communities and be better for our kids and families.”

Grieshop-Goodwin said KYA has also been looking at supporting a $1 a pack cigarette tax increase, along with the Smoke Free Tomorrow coalition. She said it is a proven way to reduce teen smoking and smoking during pregnancy.

“Statistics estimate that by increasing the tax by $1, it would keep 23,200 kids from becoming adult smokers and would help prevent 5,900 smoking-affected pregnancies over the course of the next five years.”

Right now the KYA is closely following the current budget debates in Frankfort as well as bills being introduced and discussed that affect children and families.

When asked about the possibility of expanding family court throughout the state, Grieshop-Goodwin said, “It comes down to money. It’s something that’s been discussed, but we don’t know if it will happen this year because of the budget situation.”

She said KYA and its partners have also talked about if agencies should be asking for increased funding when so many across-the-board cuts are being discussed in Frankfort. 

“And we said, yes. We need to be asking for what the investments need to be. We realize that sometimes there isn’t the funding and you have to scale back, but that shouldn’t keep us from reminding people what our goals need to be.

“What do kids and families need — we’ll ask for that. If we have to scale back — and that happens sometimes — we should still ask for what is necessary.”

Grieshop-Goodwin said several times she and her colleagues have talked about what they personally would like to be able to do for children in bad situations without the constraints of government procedures.

“We wished we could go back to treating kids like kids, but so many times we’re not … If we could all just step back and we all thought what is the best for this kid in this situation, we would totally change how we do things.”


• Kentucky Youth Advocates’ website is On this site you may view and follow the Kentucky General Assembly Bill Tracker and stay up-to-date on Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children legislative priorities and other bills that are beneficial to children. There are also links to advocacy toolkits and policies as well as research and data in the 2017 Kids Count county data book.

• The Women’s Network supports freedom and fairness — core democratic principles. Locally, the Boyle branch tries to encourage community discussion of issues facing our area. The Women’s Network is a Kentucky-wide organization founded in 2003 with branches around the state. The group usually meets 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month. To find out more, call Margaret Gardiner at (859) 236-9305 or visit