Kentucky Youth Advocates plans a Jan. 14 "Summit to End Child Abuse Deaths" they hope will provide ideas on how to improve the state's child-protection system.
Recent news stories about several deaths — including 9-year-old Amy Dye who was beaten to death by her adoptive brother — have prompted lawmakers to vow to make changes.
... Cabinet for Health and Family Services had dismissed multiple reports from Todd County school officials that the girl was suffering abuse...
...The system had failed the girl...
Records about Amy Dye's case that a judge recently ordered released to the public revealed that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services had dismissed multiple reports from Todd County school officials that the girl was suffering abuse.
Several lawmakers, including Sen. Joey Pendleton, a Hopkinsville Democrat whose district includes Todd County, expressed concern at a legislative hearing last month that the system had failed the girl.
"It's going to fail another child if we don't do something," Pendleton said. "We don't need another Amy Dye anywhere."
Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, told The Courier-Journal that the planned meeting of legislators, judges, medical experts, law enforcement, state officials and others is designed to come up with specific suggestions (http://cjky.it/ss5NZT).
Some lawmakers already have ideas for various changes.
Sen. Julie Denton, a Louisville Republican and chairwoman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, wants to require a national search for the cabinet secretary and top commissioners, rather than allowing the governor to appoint them.
Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, hopes to prevent youths accused of noncriminal offenses from ending up in state juvenile detention centers.
Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, wants to open the state's now-closed family courts to the public. She also wants to create a panel to investigate child fatalities and try to accurately identify those that result from abuse or neglect.
The National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths claims that as many as half of all child-abuse deaths aren't counted because they are improperly classified as accidents, natural deaths or from other causes.
Kentucky did not count Amy Dye's death in its annual report on child-abuse deaths because she was killed by a sibling rather than a parent or guardian.
In ruling to release records of Amy's case, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd found cabinet officials had misinterpreted state law, believing that child-protection officials were limited to investigating abuse by a parent, guardian or other person exercising custodial control.
"I thought it was the most ludicrous thing I had ever heard of," Westrom said.
Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com