Bill Passes Committee Establishing Child Abuse Review Panel

by Devin Katayama on March 2, 2012

A House Committee has approved a bill that would establish an independent panel to review and report on child abuse cases. The bill doesn’t settle the issue of what case records are public documents, but lawmakers say it’s a step towards transparency.

The question of what information in child death and near death records should be made available to the public is caught up in court. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services wants to protect certain information like still-living victims of child abuse crimes. Others say all information should be made public to identify inadequacies in the system.

Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Fayette, said her bill, HB200, would expand local review panels that exist in over 80 counties to all 120 counties, which would then pass investigations along to an official state-wide panel of 13.

“Through their investigation they will make recommendations to the Cabinet or any other agency that would or could have had interaction with this child that could have made a difference,” said Westrom.

This panel would be allowed to review non-redacted records, she said.

“This is an outside panel that is going to examine any official records, any case files, any information that is related to a child fatality or a near fatality.”

The external state-wide panel would fall under the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, but no one on the panel would work for the Cabinet, she said.

Some critics say this still does not offer the transparency the public deserves.

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