Political figures and child care leaders gathered. Key players in the child welfare arena and doctors celebrated. Citizen volunteers and policy wonks applauded as well. Everyone came together today in Louisville to cheer on the ceremonial signing of HB 157 by the Governor.
HB 157, sponsored by Representatives Addia Wuchner (R) and Susan Westrom (D), ensures doctors receive vital training to help them know the early signs of child abuse. It is part of a mosaic of wins around the issue of child abuse. The progress began almost two years ago when the Governor heard advocate calls and established – through Executive Order — an external child fatality review panel to analyze what went wrong in tragedies of child abuse deaths and prevent future deaths from occurring. That seminal win was followed by placing the panel into statute with several components that strengthened the panel during the 2013 legislative session. This year, the panel’s potential was enhanced through much needed funding to do its work because of the combined support of the Governor, Speaker Stumbo and President Stivers. And there is more to come as Judge Crittenden, the chair of the panel, working with key figures such as Representative Benvenuti (R) and Dr. Melissa Currie, who is the Chief and Medical Director at the Kosair Charities Division of Pediatric Forensic Medicine at the University of Louisville Hospital, plans to strengthen the panel’s credibility through public disclosures of members’ business interests which will increase transparency in significant ways.
And, of course, the fight against abuse has only begun. So what lessons can we learn?
First, we cannot underestimate the power of a laser focus. There is no better example of this than Kosair Charities’ Face It® Movement. When the Charities turned 90 last year, it announced a new focus leading to its centennial – the elimination of child abuse in Jefferson County by 2023. The leadership at Kosair Charities has galvanized an array of unlikely allies; supported the issue with resources; and developed a campaign that tackles the problem in multiple ways. As an example, the Face It® Movement is actively involving the medical community, child care providers, educators and young people themselves. The Face It® Movement also understands the impact of policy and worked hard on the passage of HB 157 that was signed today.
Secondly, we are reminded of the power of data. The data behind HB 157 showed that a significant number doctors were documenting injuries on children without knowing they were signs of abuse. The medical community took this data seriously and supported HB 157. That is a compliment to the ethical commitment and professionalism of the medical community. And it is also a powerful reminder that relevant and accurate data can drive policy agendas in ways that really make a difference.
The fight will not end as long as a single kid suffers from the tragedy of abuse. And we have to always renew our stamina for the long haul. But at the same time, we need to pause occasionally and celebrate wins. Today’s signing of HB 157 to prevent pediatric abusive head trauma was such a moment to celebrate.
Thanks, Governor Beshear. Thanks, Representatives Benvenuti, Westom and Wuchner. Thanks, Kosair Charities. And thanks to all the organizations and all the individuals who have joined in this most moral of commitments.