State handling of protection case cut non-relative support

April 28, 2014 

J. Robert Ross of Midway is a licensed marriage and family therapist.

  • At issue: March 19 Herald-Leader article, "State must pay papers $301,783 in legal bills for shielding records"

The Herald-Leader recently reported on the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services' lack of responsiveness to its request for information regarding the work of child protective services.

It occurred to me that the newspaper's experience with the cabinet has an uncanny parallel to my personal experience as a concerned citizen, who became involved in the lives of some abused children.

In early 2008, my wife and I opened our home one day a week for a meal and Bible study with a number of folk who had little or no connection with a church.

Among those who enjoyed our hospitality was a young woman who had two small children and was pregnant with a third. The father of the children had a criminal conviction and a probation violation which landed him in prison again.

The mother had precious few social or financial resources. For over three years we became intimately involved in her life and the lives of her children, especially the third, who was born in the spring of 2008.

Over and beyond the weekly meeting of our home fellowship, we had this mother and her children in our home on many other occasions.

We provided relief to the mother, including baby-sitting and emergency transportation. I often made trips to the day care center to visit with the children. I was personally more deeply involved with the youngest child than any other man in her life.

Sadly the children were removed from the home in the spring of 2011. We made a written request to the cabinet, supported by a letter from the mother, to allow contact with the children. The cabinet's grudging, and clearly hostile, response was for us to provide a criminal background check, which we did.

Afterwards, however, no one followed up or made an attempt to determine how we might be a positive influence in the children's lives. The cabinet seemed oblivious to the possibility that our support of the children might mitigate the potential for serious attachment disorders in the children, especially for the youngest, who had become deeply attached to us.

The only direct response the cabinet ever made to our request for contact with the children came after they had been placed in another county when I called social services there to inquire about communicating with the children.

The Fayette County office only then responded with an unbelievably arrogant and hostile phone call to inform us that we had no business seeking contact with these children.

This past summer, the cabinet also called to tell us that we were out of order in sending birthday cards to the children in care of the foster parents.

In short, we have been treated as though we had no business trying to communicate with the cabinet or with the children, who had developed with us one of the very few positive social relationships in their lives.

Obviously, the research on child development does not support this policy of cutting off a child's contacts with positive non-family influences.

So what is their rationale for doing so? I suspect that it is nothing more than misguided bureaucratic pride. If they have a better rationale, they are certainly not going to tell me.

But I shouldn't feel lonely. They apparently would do their dead level best not to tell the Herald-Leader either.

J. Robert Ross of Midway is a licensed marriage and family therapist.

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