State Lawmakers, Advocates Question State’s Child Welfare System

by Devin Katayama on November 24, 2011

State representatives and local advocates are asking Gov. Steve Beshear to consider changes to Kentucky’s child welfare system.

The request comes after reports of a child’s death uncovered that a state caseworker failed to investigate previous allegations of child abuse. This has led some to question the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which is responsible for investigating alleged abuse.

Beshear needs to lead the charge to overhaul the system, said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. The cabinet has failed to provide its last two annual reports on child abuse and neglect on time, he said.

“The cabinet has just flat out ignored the law. The statute is very clear that that report is to be release to the governor and the general assembly by September 1,” Brooks said.

The cabinet’s difficulty the past two years can partly be attributed to changing data assessments, he said. But he also alluded to this month’s elections as reason why the report may have been delayed.

Officials for the Cabinet of Health and Family Services said the report was delayed to include an analysis of a full 12 months data.

“Reports that occur toward the end of the year are frequently still awaiting autopsies, toxicology reports, and investigations are in progress. We have 45 days to complete any investigation and with reason, extension may be requested,” wrote spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services Jill Midkiff in an email to WFPL.

The report is now expected to be released by Dec. 1.

Two state lawmakers still aren’t satisfied. State representatives Tom Burch, D-30, and Julie Denton, R-36, of Louisville have requested a joint-committee meeting to discuss the issue, but it still needs to be approved by the state legislature, said Denton.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is the most difficult cabinet for the legislature to work with, she said. Lawmakers have difficulty getting information and cooperation from the cabinet, said Denton.

Beshear officials say he’s reviewing all available options before taking further steps.

The cabinet has not yet been invited to a meeting, but looks forward to any future discussions, wrote Midkiff.

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