Friday, March 23, 2007

Ernie, Save Our Children

This is pathetic. Kentucky ranks fifth in child abuse\neglect deaths. Our per one hundred thousand average is 3.88. The national average is 2.03. If Governor Fletcher cannot protect our children, why is he serving?

This would embarrass a leader. However, Governor Fletcher is silent. A true leader would champion legislation and revamp this disaster. Governor Fletcher, our children are dying. What is your response?

From Lexington Herald-Leader:

At least 12 states have passed laws requiring that child protection records be released when a child dies from neglect or abuse. But Kentucky, which in 2004 had the fifth-highest rate of children dying of abuse and neglect in the United States, isn't one of them. When a child dies from abuse or neglect in Kentucky, state child protection officials decide whether to release the information on a case-by-case basis.

In the case of Michaela Watkins, a Clark County 10-year-old whose father and step-mother have been charged with murder, the answer is no. Michaela was found dead in the couple's apartment, and relatives have said that police and state social workers had previous contact with the girl and her family, including three other children in the home.

So far, the state has declined to release any records in Michaela's case, citing an ongoing police investigation and saying the confidentiality of Michaela's siblings should be protected. The state says it is conducting an internal investigation of its contact with Michaela. Kentucky Youth Advocates, a Louisville-based child advocacy group, favors opening state social service records after child fatalities, said KYA Deputy Director Lacey McNary. The hard part, she said, is in deciding when that should happen. "We want to ensure transparency, but we want to make sure that police can do their job," McNary said.

Under federal law, states such as Kentucky that receive federal child abuse prevention grants must have a provision in place to release state social service information when a child dies. But the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act does not require the release of information in all cases or specify the information that can be released, said Steve Christian, a spokesman for the Colorado-based National Conference of State Legislatures.

The national average of children dying from abuse and neglect was 2.03 deaths per 100,000 children in 2004, the most recent year for which national data was available. In 2004, Kentucky's rate was 3.88. Only Indiana, Washington D.C., Oklahoma and Georgia had higher rates. Indiana, which had the nation's highest rate of deaths from child abuse and neglect in 2004, has passed a law that requires a judge to open files in child death cases after receiving a request from the public or an agency. Within 30 days of a request being made to open a record, the court in the Indiana county where the child died must exclude identifying information not relevant to the circumstances of the child's death.

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