Gov. Steve Beshear has signed an executive order to create a 17 member panel that will review child death and near-death cases throughout Kentucky.
“These reviews allow us to see if policies and practices in the entire system need to be altered to better protect Kentucky’s children,” Beshear said in a release.
A bill establishing a similar panel failed in the state's General Assembly this year after passing the House Health and Welfare Committee, chaired by Representative Tom Burch.
Burch said the executive order is a step in the right direction, and will help the Cabinet for Health and Family Services set best practices for dealing with child abuse issues.
“I think this panel broadens itself, it also has–which we did not have before–it has the Attorney general having oversight over it and then that person will also be the chairman of the committee,” said Burch.
The panel’s creation follows questioning around the practices of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, but Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes welcomes the input.
“Those recommendations will also be useful to to all agencies and stakeholders involved with these tragedies,” said Haynes in the release.
The panel will consist of elected officials and other stakeholders selected by an external peer committee. It will include healthcare professionals, legislators and social services representatives. The panel will be attached to the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet but will be independent from state government.
The idea for more transparency was also a top recommendation from a child abuse summit organized by Kentucky Youth Advocates in January.
“What got done was essentially a mirror reflection of what we recommended,” said executive director Terry Brooks.
The panel is encouraging because it reflects national best practices, he said. This includes taking oversight out of the Governor's office and out of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and putting it into the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.
“We also know that the experts understand the power of a multi-disciplinary approach,” he said.
The big question that will determine the success of the panel will be access to accurate timely data, said Brooks.
“If the discussions are going to have value they have to be around data they can trust. That has been a real problem,” he said.
The panel will report findings to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the State Supreme Court and the General Assembly.