Legislation headed to Governor Matt Bevin’s desk will open to the public a small number of Kentucky courts handling child welfare cases.
The House and Senate approved legislation this session that would allow the public access to family court in cases involving child abuse, neglect, or dependency.
Terry Brooks is director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. He says he hopes greater transparency leads to better decisions by putting a spotlight on judges and child welfare workers. "There have been many tragedies that have beset the commonwealth around child welfare, where abuse or neglect happen, fatalities result. When you think about the child welfare system, while folks work really hard, there are lots of tragedies," he says.
He says he has been pushing for more transparency for several years, "There's always been, whether it's from the press, or from advocates, or from the legal community, a certain doubt as to what really goes on, what really is the inside scoop on the child welfare system. And I think that Senate Bill 40 is a really good beginning step," he says.
Brooks says opening family court proceedings would give the public a better understanding of how the system works. He says that’s something the media, child advocates, and the legal community have wanted for a long time.
However, public defenders feel opening juvenile courts would interfere with the rehabilitation of young offenders.