House Passes External Child Welfare Review Panel Bill to Senate
The Kentucky Senate will decide whether to send Gov. Steve Beshear a bill that would create more oversight for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.The panel would be comprised of child welfare professionals not associated with state government. Those individuals would be able to review child welfare documents the Cabinet considers private. House Bill 200 has been unanimously approved by the House.The Cabinet has been criticized lately for its management of child welfare services and is involved in a lawsuit concerning the release of certain child welfare records.Rep. Susan Westrom, D-79, introduced the bill establishing an external panel. She said she's been trying for over a decade to make changes to the Cabinet regarding transparency issues."I think the media has been the greatest assistance to me as well as child advocates across the state. There was such a sense of outrage by the end of last year," said Westrom.Kentucky Youth Advocates Executive Director Terry Brooks said the bill responds to many recommendations provided at a child welfare summit earlier this year.“It’s based on good practice. It brings the accountability and transparency that we’ve been talking about," he said.It will also be important for the General Assembly to pass a budget that includes the governor’s $21 million allocation for more child welfare case workers, said Brooks.That money would fund an additional 300 positions and help ease the heavy caseload carried by state social workers. Brooks says he’s confident the Senate will work quickly to pass the child welfare review bill.