Sunday, January 15, 2012

Making agency more open gets top priority from attendees at Ky. Summit to End Child Abuse Deaths

"Eliminating secrecy at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services was the top vote-getter" among 250 "judges, lawmakers, child advocates and social workers" in a packed house at the Kentucky Summit to End Child Abuse Deaths yesterday in Louisville, reports Deborah Yetter of The Courier-Journal.

The top recommendations, as listed by Linda Blackford of the Lexington Herald-Leader, were to increase:
 Improve transparency and accountability at the cabinet;
 Increase funds for proven and effective services such court appointed advocates, substance abuse programs, in-home services and parent advocate programs;
 Increase funds for additional social workers and support;
 Improve the system of collaboration among agencies involved in the child welfare system.

"Transparency and accountability became big issues after the Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal sued the state to get access to case files of children who have died or nearly died as a result of neglect and abuse," Blackford notes in her story.

Jon Fleischaker, left, and Dr. James J. Clark,
associate dean for research at the University
of Kentucky College of Social Work
Top Kentucky news-media lawyer Jon Fleischaker said it was details of the case of murdered Todd County 9-year-old Amy Dye — details "that the cabinet first denied it had, then fought to keep secret — that helped galvanize public outrage over shortcomings of the child welfare system," Yetter reports, quoting Fleischaker: “There is a culture of secrecy that deprives the public of all information. If the public doesn’t know about it, good luck on getting more funding.”

Cabinet Secretary Janie Miller "gave a brief luncheon speech at the summit, saying her agency welcomed the work of the summit," Yetter reports. "Afterward, in an interview, Miller declined to comment on the litigation over access to child abuse records between the cabinet and the state’s two largest newspapers." (Read more)

"Any bill that Kentucky lawmakers pass in the name of children should uphold the spirit and the letter of the state’s open records law," The Courier-Journal says in an editorial.

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