Members of a new state review panel tasked with overseeing child fatalities and near fatalities will begin their work by examining the cases of eight children who died over the past year.
Governor Steve Beshear created the panel earlier this year with an executive order and the group met for the first time Tuesday. Judge Roger Crittenden, who chairs the panel, says more information may be needed to get a clear understanding of what happened and why.
“That’s the point we’re trying to figure out is what records do we actually need to have?," Crittenden said. "We know what we’re going to get, and that’s what we’re going to look at first, and then from that, do we need police reports? Are they in the record and if they’re not in the record, should they be?”
The group of doctors, judicial experts, and social workers was formed by Governor Steve Beshear earlier this year to examine how the Cabinet for Health and Family Services handles fatalities, especially when the child had a previous case record. Teresa James is Commissioner of the Department for Community Based Services, which oversees child abuse cases.
“I think it will also bring a lot of light to probably lots of individuals that are involved and touch these cases prior to the death of a child," James said. "And I believe the department has a tremendous opportunity to look at some areas that we may have some opportunities for improvement.”
Senator Julie Denton of Louisville was disappointed more information was not made available. She accused the Cabinet for the Health and Family Services of stonewalling the transparency process.
“They knew about this," Denton said. "This was there governor, his administration, that did this. So how could they not be working to get those files? And if they didn’t do so much redaction, we could have those pretty darn quickly.”
Over the past fiscal year the Cabinet received reports of 55 fatalities or near fatalities. Members of the review panel say they may need additional information for each case such as police reports, court documents, and school records.