The tortured life and brutal death of nine-year-old Amythz Dye should weigh on the consciences of all Kentuckians, but especially Gov. Steve Beshear's.
Beshear is ultimately responsible for the state agency that turned a blind eye to the Todd County child's suffering and the repeated credible reports of abuse.
The cabinet's inaction, in the face of so much evidence, cries for an unflinching review of what went wrong: How did the child-protective system leave the little girl in the adoptive home it had approved for her, where she was physically and emotionally abused, until last winter when her 17-year-old adoptive brother beat her to death with a jack handle?
Despite the obvious need for answers, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services failed to conduct the fatality review required by law.
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The cabinet's excuse? It contends it had no duty to investigate because the child's death was not at the hand of a parent or guardian.
It's hard to know which is more outrageous: The failure by the cabinet's front line to effectively investigate and protect a defenseless child. Or the eagerness at the cabinet's upper levels to stonewall and hide behind lame excuses.
Either way, the buck stops with the governor.
Yes, the legislature should finally wake up to the need for reform of Kentucky's broken child-welfare system. But there is much Beshear can do on his own, beginning with opening state records of child fatalities and near fatalities.
This is the necessary first step toward identifying and fixing the system's weaknesses.
We're not calling for an inquisition of underpaid, overworked child-protection workers. What's needed — and has been for a long time — is a deep look at the training, resources and support they are getting in their jobs. Also, what kinds of services and interventions does the state provide families and children such as Amy, who was adopted after being removed from a home where she had been neglected and sexually abused?
The story of how the state failed Amy is coming to light because her hometown newspaper, The Todd County Standard, filed suit under the Kentucky Open Records Act to open the state's case file.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd last week ordered the cabinet to open the records, revealing for the first time the multiple warnings that Amy was in danger that cabinet workers ignored or discredited.
It was the second time in a week that Shepherd had ordered the cabinet to open records in a child death.
"This case," the judge wrote, "presents a tragic example of the potentially deadly consequences of a child welfare system that has completely insulated itself from meaningful public scrutiny."
There can be no meaningful scrutiny until Beshear strips away the layers of bureaucratic secrecy.