Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Beshear creates panel to review abuse cases, orders more case files to be released to media
To ensure that state agencies meet the policies and standards expected in cases of child abuse and neglect, Gov. Steve Beshear has issued an executive order to establish the Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel. The independent, multidisciplinary panel will conduct comprehensive reviews of child fatalities and near fatalities that are determined to be the result of child abuse or neglect.
“The death of any child for any reason is devastating to families and communities. But when a child dies or is critically injured because of abuse or neglect, we must carefully review the practices of all government entities involved to make sure that our system performed as it was supposed to – and if not, that review allows us to take disciplinary action,” Beshear said. “Just as important, these reviews allow us to see if policies and practices in the entire system need to be altered to better protect Kentucky’s children.”
The independent 17-member panel will be attached to the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet for staff and administrative purposes, and will be composed of a wide range of experts and stakeholders including those of law enforcement and social services, and representatives of all three branches of state government. Those members who are not serving by virtue of their office are selected for service by external peer committees or by the attorney general.
Members will meet quarterly to review official records, case files or information relating to child fatalities or near fatalities and analyze the medical, psychosocial and legal circumstances of the child to identify conditions that contributed to the death or serious injury. The panel will recommend improvements to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the Department for Community Based Services and to any other public or private agencies involved with the family relating to protocols, practice, training or other protections to keep children safe.
The panel will also publish an annual report of case reviews, findings and recommendations that will be submitted to the governor, the CHFS secretary, the chief justice of the Supreme Court and the General Assembly and will be available to the public on the websites of both the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and CHFS.
Advocates hail move
Child and family health advocates hailed the order as an important step in enhancing protections for children.
“This is the first step, but not the only step we need to take in order to enhance our child abuse prevention efforts. One child fatality as a result of child maltreatment is one too many, but the work of this panel will enable all agencies impacting children to learn from mistakes and prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future,” said Jill Seyfred, Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky.
This is a tremendous step forward for Kentucky’s children,” said Dr. Melissa L. Currie, chief and medical director, University of Louisville Pediatrics – Forensic Medicine.
Fatality, near fatality records to be released
Beshear also announced that he has directed CHFS to provide to the The Courier-Journal of Louisville and Lexington Herald-Leader the remaining child fatality and near fatality records that have been the subject of ongoing litigation between the newspapers and the cabinet. (The move comes after a decision by the Kentucky Court of Appeals last week denying CHFS’s request to prevent release of the records.)
Those records include the case files for all child fatalities and near fatalities that occurred during calendar years 2009-2010 in which criminal charges are not pending or findings of abuse are not on appeal. All CFHS employee names and actions will be included. The Cabinet has released about 76 of the approximately 140 case records from that time period. An estimated 43 case files will be released to the newspapers. Other cases still have pending court action and will be released after they have been adjudicated.
From Office of the Governor