Ending child abuse and neglect requires transparency of data, procedures, protocols, and policies in the systems with which vulnerable children interact, such as the child welfare, education, and justice systems. Over the last few years, we at Kentucky Youth Advocates have been concerned with the often lack of transparency and accountability of these systems and the impact this has on the protection of children.
Recently, however, some positive movements give me hope when it comes to transparency related to child abuse and neglect.
On Monday of this week, an agreement was reached in a lawsuit that began in 2009 between the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the state’s two largest newspapers – Herald Leader and Courier-Journal. The lawsuit involved the state’s refusal to release records related to children who died or nearly died due to abuse or neglect. The ruling sided with the newspapers that case files where children died or nearly died due to abuse or neglect should be subject to the Open Records Act. We believe this ruling will provide better safeguards and accountability measures rather than allowing a culture of secrecy to continue.
Last week, we joined several Kosair Charities Face It® partners at a meeting where the Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Vickie Glisson, Deputy Secretary Tim Feeley, and Legislative Director Eric Clark spoke about their plans to transform the child welfare system across Kentucky. They emphasized their desire to move the Cabinet toward a culture of transparency and accountability. While it is unknown how these changes will play out, we appreciate the commitment of these officials to embrace transparency rather than run from it.
Finally, we applaud Senator Julie Raque Adams for sponsoring SB 40, which passed in the 2016 General Assembly, to create a pilot project to open courts in child welfare cases. This is an opportunity to start small, evaluate the impact on children, and identify future steps. Opening courts allows the public to learn about the challenges of the system and to work to improve it. It also promotes accountability for everyone involved in child welfare cases in the courtroom. We look forward to monitoring the outcome of this legislation and its future implications.
Transparency is important when it comes to protecting children. We also want to ensure transparency results in better outcomes for kids. While we still have a long way to go to ensure no child is a victim of abuse, these positive steps in transparency can make a big impact on keeping kids safe in Kentucky.