Child protection panel releases 9 recommendations to improve protective services


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FRANKFORT, Kentucky — A panel reviewing severe child abuse cases has released nine recommendations to improve protective services, including drug-testing parents who have a child die unexpectedly in their care.

The Courier-Journal ( reports the Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Panel released the recommendations Monday.

The panel was tasked by the governor with reviewing 116 case files of children who died or nearly died from abuse or neglect and making recommendations to improve the state's child protection system.

Along with drug screenings, the committee recommended several other changes including a public awareness campaign on safe sleeping practices for infants, making court proceedings more transparent and studying the caseload of social workers.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services said in a statement that officials will review the report and evaluate the proposals.

"While the cabinet values the panel's suggestions and welcomes its feedback, we have not yet had an opportunity to digest the panel's recommendations," the statement said.

Democratic Rep. Tom Burch of Louisville, who chairs the House Health and Welfare Committee, said the cabinet hasn't always been diligent about making improvements.

"Unless we put pressure on the cabinet and keep their feet to the fire, they may or may not do anything," he said.

The panel's report found that 29 percent of cases examined resulted from physical abuse and 15 percent from medical neglect. It said about 10 percent involved a caregiver under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but no testing was done in 95 percent of cases.

Retired Judge Roger Crittenden, who chairs the panel, said law enforcement agencies and child-welfare investigators could be helped by making drug tests a standard procedure.

"That's a hard recommendation — hard meaning that one will have a lot of conflict," he said. "We think that we made it general enough that it could be adopted."

Information from: The Courier-Journal,

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