Judge Orders State’s Child Abuse Records in 10 Days

by Devin Katayama on December 1, 2011

With reporting from the Associated Press

A judge has ordered state officials to release 90 internal reviews of child deaths within the next 10 days.

The order is a response to a lawsuit requesting certain child welfare documents be made public. Judge Phillip Shepherd says the order is not meant to pass blame to the cabinet’s social workers, some of whom have been accused of ignoring warnings of child abuse. Instead, the order complies with the Open Records Law, but Governor Steve Beshear says he wants to make transparency the new norm.

Shepherd says the records will give the public and the legislature insight into challenges the department faces.

Beshear ordered the Cabinet of Health and Family Services on Tuesday to release records involving child deaths and abuse. Beshear further said he wants Kentucky to make the release of information in certain child abuse cases mandatory. Right now Kentucky is a “permissive” state that can choose what information is disclosed in child welfare cases.

Temporary staff has been hired to help redact certain personal information in the documents, said attorney’s for the department.

A majority of states that make mandatory the release of certain child abuse records already implement this practice to protect victims of abuse.

If Beshear and the General Assembly are able to pass similar legislation, this process will become the new norm.

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