Mara Powell

Statement from Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates

LOUISVILLE, KY – The child welfare system, and specifically the process of substantiation of abuse and neglect, is complex, involves multiple departments, and can be subjective. When people feel the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) did not take appropriate steps or make the right decisions in child abuse cases, they may contact the Ombudsman’s office to file a complaint. However, currently the Ombudsman’s office that takes complaints for child abuse cases is housed within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), meaning that people are filing a complaint within the same Cabinet that made the decision in a case.

Senate Bill 48, sponsored by Senator Stephen Meredith and passed today by the Senate Families & Children Committee, aims to create more efficiency within many of the important functions of CHFS, as well as improve organization of those functions and workforce issues to create better outcomes for children and families. This bill emanated from the CHFS Organizational Structure, Operations, and Administrations Task Force that met over the interim. SB 48 extends that Task Force to continue meeting through the interim of 2023. The most integral component of this bill addresses an ongoing challenge concerning child maltreatment reports and investigations: the functioning and transparency of the Ombudsman’s Office.

The other efficiencies include reorganizing departments and offices to create more linear means of communication within CHFS, for example stationing the work of the Office for Children with Special Health Care Needs to the Department for Public Health. It requires the Department for Medicaid Services, Aging and Independent Living and Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities (DBHDID) to work together to identify and eliminate redundancies and barriers to administering Medicaid waivers. It also moves some functions of CHFS outside of CHFS, including moving the function of addressing delinquent child support payments to the Office of Attorney General.

We applaud Senator Meredith for championing this bill and leading collaboration with CHFS, advocates, and those impacted by the proposed changes. We also applaud the Senator and the Senate Families & Children Committee for adopting the committee substitute to create an even more independent option for the Ombudsman’s Office to be relocated to the State Auditor’s Office. We thank the Committee for taking this first step to increase transparency and accountability with child welfare cases with today’s passage of SB 48.

Stay up-to-date on Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children priorities and other bills that are good for kids on our Kentucky General Assembly Bill Tracker.


About Kentucky Youth Advocates
Kentucky Youth Advocates believes all children deserve to be safe, healthy, and secure. As THE independent voice for Kentucky’s children, we work to ensure policymakers create investments and policies that are good for children. Learn more at