UK social work launches pandemic relief appeal and assessment center for young adoptees in Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 18, 2022) — For more than 9,000 young adoptees in Kentucky, finding a stable home has never been more difficult.

In recent years, social services have had to deal with an increase in the number of cases, a reduction in staff and budget cuts. Meanwhile, rates of child abuse and neglect remain high.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound impact on vulnerable populations, including the child protection sector.

In keeping with its mission to improve the lives of all Kentuckians, the College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky is launching the Pandemic Support Response Initiative (PSRI). Funded by $3.9 million in federal pandemic relief dollars, PSRI will serve as a resource connector for young adoptees across the Commonwealth.

“Without a doubt, the pandemic has had a significant impact on social services and those who benefit from them,” said Jay Miller, Dean of CoSW. “This programmatic initiative will enable us to mitigate the impact for youth in and from foster care in an effective and efficient manner.”

Challenges faced by young people in foster care

From financial hardship and employment challenges to accessing mental health and wellness resources, the pandemic has been especially challenging for young people transitioning to adulthood.

Many rely on multiple jobs for financial stability, including Tamara Vest.

The Lexington native graduated with a bachelor’s degree from CoSW in 2020 and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in social work. As a former foster kid who left the system at 17, Vest knows what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet.

“I relied on my income to support myself. However, my job closed for the first few months of the pandemic and unemployment resources were barely enough to cover food – let alone my rent,” she said. “I always fear that everything I worked for could be taken away from me in seconds.”

There are a range of services and resources designed to help youth in foster care become self-sufficient. But the ability to access support is extremely limited, at best.

Vest is just one of many young adults who have “grown up” in foster care with limited relationships and without the support of positive, caring adults – until she becomes a member of the British family.

“No matter how old you are, you never outgrow the need for someone to care about you.”

Social work in the UK continues to be part of the solution

Now help will be just a phone call away.

PRSI will support current and former foster youth by connecting them with resources to develop and learn job skills, sustainable housing, and mental and behavioral health services.

One aspect of the program is a peer-run call center that provides callers with one-on-one, real-time counseling for young people seeking to access needed resources.

Dean Miller says this is just one of the ways the college hopes to ease some of the burden the pandemic has placed on young adoptees in Kentucky. “Really, COVID-19 has had a negative impact on all of us. But young people in foster care and former students have been particularly affected,” he explained. “This initiative will connect young people to the resources and information they desperately need.

To learn more about the Pandemic Foster Care Initiative, please call 859-562-0182 or email [email protected]

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