This post originally appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Courier Journal on February 27, 2013
A critical bill now stands before the Senate that would create a child fatality and near fatality review panel. The creation of this panel would be one of the biggest steps forward our state can take to identify trends and solutions to address child deaths and near deaths that occur as a result of abuse and neglect. We strongly urge the Senate to pass HB 290 and create this panel in statute that can identify ways to improve our system of child protection.
We write you today as a group of organizations gathered under the leadership of Kosair Charities to end child abuse and neglect in Jefferson County and beyond. This bold, audacious goal is daunting yet necessary to tackle a problem as significant as the abuse and neglect of our youngest citizens. A couple of actions could be taken to improve the independence of the panel, and we encourage the Senate to incorporate these solutions in a way that would not jeopardize the passage of HB 290.
First, the panel would be stronger if it was housed in the legislative branch or in another constitutional office, to avoid the executive branch overseeing and critiquing its own work. Second, requiring disclosure of the panel members’ employment history and any grants, contracts or other financial dealings with the executive branch would openly put on the record any potential conflicts of interest. Such disclosure would not only protect panel members but also make relationships transparent. The sponsors have heard financial concerns raised with these options, but we urge legislators to continue the discussion to find a way to ensure independence without significant cost.
We applaud the work of Rep. Tom Burch, Rep. Jim Wayne, and many members of the House Health and Welfare Committee for building on Gov. Steve Beshear’s executive order creating a temporary panel. We call on the Senate to join us in recognizing the significance of this opportunity to make Kentucky a safer place for our most precious resource — our children — and pass HB 290.
CEO of Family and Children’s Place
The letter is also signed by Randy Coe, president, Kosair Charities; Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director, Kentucky Youth Advocates; Jerry Cantrell, retired president of Bellewood Children’s Home; Dr. Melissa Currie, chief and medical director, U of L Pediatric Forensic Medicine; The Honorable Patricia Walker Fitzgerald, judge, Jefferson Family Court; Jeff Hadley, CEO, Boys and Girls Haven; Dr. Gerald Rabalais, chairman, University of Louisville Department of Pediatrics; Dr. William K. Smithwick, president, Sunrise Children’s Services; and Dr. Charles Woods, University of Louisville Department of Pediatrics. — Editor