An independent Kentucky panel in charge of reviewing child abuse cases is requesting $420,000 from the state’s budget to perform its duties.
The Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Panel was created following criticism of accountability and transparency in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which deals with child abuse cases.
The panel—which consists of volunteer professionals ranging from law enforcement to child advocates—has reviewed dozens of cases, but the workload is heavy, says panel chair and retired judge Roger Crittenden.
“Right now the challenge is the amount of work, or the amount of review, that’s required from people who are basically giving their time and are busy people with full-time jobs,” he says.
The money—if approved by Gov. Steve Beshear and the General Assembly—would buy staff, Crittenden says.
“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,” he says.
The panel was created by Beshear through executive order and later became permanent through state law, but there has never been funding attached. The panel is under the state’s Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, which provides some help but not enough, Crittenden says.
At a previous panel meeting, Teri Covington, director of the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths, told members it’s virtually impossible to keep up the review and do the analysis necessary with volunteers, Crittenden says.
Over the past year, the panel has reviewed around 55 child abuse cases from 2012 and will review around 60 cases from this year, he says. The panel is expected to give its annual report in early December.
“We’re going to be identifying those issues that we’ll be looking for in the next year. We’re going to be giving a history of how the panel got to where it is, and then how the panel intends to proceed for the next year in making the analysis that it makes,” says Crittenden.
In the analysis so far, there have been at least a couple of child abuse cases in which various panel members thought that CHFS follow up was not done in a speedy enough fashion, he says. There were also cases in which panel members praised the response by the CHFS and its employees.
Crittenden says one observation that seems consistent in the files is the lack of organization among the reports, making the children’s stories hard to follow.