Panel Reviewing Child Deaths Making Some Progress

Jan 29, 2013

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- A panel created by to review child deaths and severe abuse or neglect cases says redacted files have hampered its ability to fully investigate the cases, but members say they have made some progress.

Media reported the group has identified some trend data among case files for 55 incidents provided by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, including that many involve substance abuse and mental health issues.

"That's exactly what we need to be looking at. What is the trend data?" said panel member Joel Griffith , who is with advocacy group Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky. "What's killing these kids?"

Republican Sen. Julie Denton of Louisville it doesn't seem necessary to redact much of the information because it is clear in many cases who is involved anyway, especially when people are familiar with the cases.

"They don't need to be redacting at all because it's pretty useless," Denton said.

The Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel, which met for the second time Monday, is proposing that it become a permanent fixture and be allowed to do some of its work outside the public records law which would give members full access to cases.

The panel is tasked with making recommendations to improve investigations of child abuse cases.

Attorney Jon Fleischaker, who represents the Kentucky Press Association, said news media would likely fight any legislation that proposes putting the panel's meetings or documents out of public view.

"They want to put a closed system on top of a closed system," Fleischaker said. "And then they want the public to trust them."