To decrease the number of children who are killed or nearly killed by abuse and neglect, there needs to be improved transparency and accountability at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. This was the top recommendation made by a group of social workers, legislators, judges and child advocates who gathered at the Summit to End Child Abuse Deaths, put on by Kentucky Youth Advocates Saturday.
The other recommendations were to increase funds for services such as "appointed advocates, substance abuse programs, in-house services and parent advocate programs," increase funds for more social workers and support; and improve collaboration between child welfare agencies, reported Linda Blackford of the Lexington Herald-Leader. The group will send a letter to the General Assembly listing these recommendations.
Child abuse became a major issue for the state's largest newspapers after the Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal sued the cabinet to gain access to records in which children had died or nearly died because of abuse. The cabinet had long fought to keep the records closed, even after Franklin Circuit Judge Philip Shepherd repeatedly ruled the records be released. In November, Gov. Steve Beshear likewise ordered the release of the records, but the cabinet tried to backtrack.
"Instead of lies, we need leadership," said Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, at Saturday's meeting. Denton has repeatedly been outspoken about the issue, even asking for the resignation of Cabinet Secretary Janie Miller. Miller briefly attended Saturday's session, praising the efforts at collaboration, but saying the cabinet is being hit hard by budget cuts. She said the cabinet has lost $80 million in funding the past four years, but has asked for $20 million in new money over the next two years to pay for 300 more positions in its Department for Community Based Services. (Read more)