Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has ceremonially signed into law a measure that would require Kentucky physicians to undergo training to detect signs of child abuse.
Republican Rep. Addia Wuchner sponsored the bill. Three other states have similar laws, and Wuchner says this will address Kentucky's problem with abuse-related fatalities and injuries.
“The statistics are heart-rendering. We all know them, we hear them repeatedly. There are numbers that we never wanted Kentucky to be number one in. We like being number one in basketball, and all those other arenas. But sadly, Kentucky’s children cried out that we do something differently," the GOP lawmaker said.
Beshear says the training will be funded in part by medical licensing fees.
Kentucky averages 29 child deaths each year due to abuse and neglect.
An independent Kentucky panel in charge of reviewing child abuse cases is requesting over $400,000 from the state’s budget to perform its duties.
The Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Panel was created following criticism of accountability in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which handles child abuse cases.
Retired judge Roger Crittenden is chair of the panel. He says the group is made up of volunteers who review scores of cases, and the funds would be used for staff.
“There’s some staff members that include legal services and other analysts, to provide people that will take the data, take the files that we’re looking at...take what we’ve suggested and then make some sort of analysis.”
The panel’s first annual report is due in December. Crittenden says members have praised the cabinet’s actions in some child abuse cases while criticizing slow response times in others. He says most files seem to lack organization, making the children’s stories hard to follow.
A new report that found increasing efforts to protect Kentucky children from abuse is drawing cautious praise from child advocates. According to the report released by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, child welfare workers confirmed almost 15% more cases of neglect and abuse last year than in 2011.
Kentucky Youth Advocates Director Terry Brooks says the report shows child welfare officials are serious about trying to make improvements in the system.
Preliminary figures show nine children died and 27 nearly died in the fiscal year that ended June 30th, which is a decrease from the previous year. Federal statistics show that in recent years, Kentucky has ranked among the worst in the nation for deaths associated with child abuse.
Two high-ranking Republicans say they’ll hold legislative meetings to examine the state’s troubled Department of Children’s Services. The Tennessean reports House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey plan to announce meetings to be held later this month when the Tennessee General Assembly reconvenes in Nashville.
The DCS has come under intense criticism recently for refusing to share details about the cases of 31 children who died in the first six months of 2012. Those 31 children had previously been brought to the attention of the DCS, leading to questions about whether more could have been done to place the children in a safer environment.
Democratic Rep. Mike Turner has previously called for a legislative investigation into how DCS protects vulnerable young people in the Volunteer state. The New-York based group Children's Rights is also pressing Tennessee to get the DCS to release case records.
Officials with the Family Enrichment Center in Bowling Green say the tough economy is having an impact on the amount of child abuse in the region. Lynn Hulsey is the Director of Programming for the organization, and she says hard economic times increase the amount of stress in many households. She says about ten percent more children were abused or neglected in the Barren River Area Development District last year than in 2010. Dan Modlin has more on the story..........