Today marks a significant step forward in protecting children from dying due to abuse or neglect in Kentucky. HB 290, which puts into law a panel to review child abuse deaths, passed out of the General Assembly today and now heads to the Governor for his signature. The child fatality review panel will help us learn from our mistakes and improve practices in the child welfare system to prevent future child abuse deaths. It will help us understand what’s working in the system and what isn’t.

HB 290 builds upon the original executive order issued by Governor Beshear, which created the panel last summer. For instance, the bill ensures the panel members have access to complete records that will give them the full information needed to identify ways to improve the system and prevent these deaths from occurring. The legislature also worked to find a balance on transparency of information to make sure the public can monitor the process while also respecting the information of others involved in the cases beyond the perpetrator and child fatality victim.

The final version of the bill added several significant measures for oversight to ensure the panel is acting in the interest of children and not swayed by the agencies involved. Particularly important is the inclusion of legislative oversight to the panel to emphasize independence from the Office of the Governor and Cabinets, which is a key factor in letting the panel do its work in an unbiased manner.

Today is a landmark day for kids as this bill has the potential to drastically reduce child abuse deaths across the state. We commend primary co-sponsors Representative Burch and Representative Wayne for their leadership on this bill and also Senator Denton for strengthening the bill in the Senate. Finally, we know that successful bills take leadership in both chambers and we thank the many legislators who spent time ensuring that the bill represents what is in the best interest of children. We celebrate today and look forward to seeing positive outcomes for kids that will result from this new and improved panel.