A panel of experts would provide comprehensive reviews after child deaths and near-fatalities caused by abuse or neglect under legislation proposed today by Rep. Tom Burch, chair of the House Health and Welfare Committee.
The panel would be given unredacted files and supporting documentation of child deaths and near deaths that have been reported to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services as suspected abuse or neglect cases.
“We need to shed light on whether our child protection system has gaps that need to be filled,” Burch said. “No secrecy. No withholding. No hiding. No excuses. We want complete records turned over to see whether any children are falling through the cracks of the system.”
Gov. Steve Beshear created a panel last year similar to what Burch is proposing. Burch’s panel would have the permanency that comes from being created by statute. It would also address concerns that the current panel lacks all the information it needs for comprehensive reviews by forbidding redactions from the files it receives.
“Nothing should be held back from those who are reviewing whether Kentucky is doing all we can to protect our most vulnerable children,” Burch said.
Under Burch’s legislation, 20 members of the External Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Panel would bring a wide array of expertise to the review of child fatality and near fatality cases. The panel would include representatives from the fields of medicine, law enforcement, child advocacy and all three branches of government.
The panel would meet at least quarterly in public meetings and post updates online after each meeting. It would also publish an annual report to show its findings and recommendations for improvements to help prevent fatal or near fatal results from child abuse or neglect.