Herald-Leader Editorial

Mockery of child-abuse review; Beshear should end over-redacting of files

January 31, 2013 

Gov. Steve Beshear

An independent panel created by Gov. Steve Beshear to review child abuse deaths is quickly producing insights that could keep Kentucky children safer.

Too bad the panel's work is being impeded by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services' notorious penchant for secrecy.

Beshear should march in and personally confiscate all the black felt-tip markers (or whatever stocks the redact-o-rama) unless he wants to make a mockery of his own panel and review process.

Beshear created the Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel in July to review cases that result in child deaths or serious injury and recommend improvements in child protection by the end of 2013.

In November when the panel met for the first time, the cabinet had provided no case files for it to review.

By Monday when the panel met for the second time, the 17 members had case files but the records had been so heavily redacted that they were hard to follow.

Among other deletions the names of all adults had been removed. Some of the files didn't include police investigations, school records and mental health and doctor's assessments, which the cabinet does not always have but are needed to gain a full picture.

The cabinet's ostensible motive for withholding and redacting public records is to protect innocent family members and informants, even though the courts have ruled the cabinet must open the records.

No one would protest the reasonable redactions allowed under the state open records law.

What's not acceptable is the cabinet's stubborn determination to control the flow of information, even at the expense of accountability and chances to strengthen child protection.

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