Committee Discusses Issues Regarding Child Welfare

by Devin Katayama on December 19, 2011

Kentucky legislators will meet Monday in the Joint Committee for Health and Welfare to discuss transparency issues in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The cabinet has been criticized lately for not releasing certain child abuse records after a social worker was accused of not investigating a case that led to a child’s death. Several records have since been released but are heavily redacted.

Committee co-chair Tom Burch, D-30, has previously proposed legislation to mandate transparency of certain child welfare records. This mandate was attached to 2007 legislation Burch co-sponsored to protect case workers after Boni Frederick was killed performing her duties, but amendments to the bill were made, said Burch.

“We did not go far enough because I had transparency in there, where the cabinet had to open up their record to these cases. And I took that part out to get the first part passed,” he said.

Burch further introduced a bill in the 2011 regular session, House Bill 441, which again made certain records child welfare records public, but it too was rejected. HB441 included creation of a panel that would review specific cases and documents. It also improved the process for releasing certain information.

In both cases opponents of the bills feared transparency issues, he said. But now transparency may be back by popular demand. Burch said he hopes the issue of cabinet transparency will continue to gather steam for the new legislative session.

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