Support transparency in child abuse, neglect cases

Jill Seyfred
Jill Seyfred

One topic around which Kentuckians can unite is that of protecting the commonwealth’s youngest citizens. How we do that, of course, is often debated and discussed.

One idea that has been introduced the past two years to our elected officials serving in Frankfort is that of opening child abuse and neglect proceedings within the juvenile court system.

This marks the second consecutive year in which Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R.-Louisville, has proposed legislation to move our state in the right direction by allowing the creation of a small number of pilot sites in courts.

Senate Bill 40 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday and is now headed to the full Senate for a vote.

The intent of this legislation, is to promote transparency, accountability and systems improvement. Children benefit when decisions made by the professionals operating in the system are subject to public scrutiny, and the public will benefit from a greater understanding of the complexities of the child-welfare system.

SB 40 utilizes a commonsense approach to moving our state toward greater openness. Beginning with pilot sites, it will allow Kentucky to identify and refine best practices before implementation in every jurisdiction.

SB 40 also contains safeguards which effectively balance the public’s need for information with a child’s legitimate interest in confidentiality.

This balance is achieved by exclusion of all child sexual-abuse cases, prohibiting the use of recording equipment in juvenile-court proceedings, and allowing the judge to close hearings upon a motion and finding that opening the proceedings would be detrimental to the child.

Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky strongly supports this important legislation. As evidenced from the past two reports released by the Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Panel, this legislation is an important step in preventing child-abuse deaths.

We encourage the General Assembly and the Bevin administration to support this effort to provide a safeguard for our children.

Contact your elected officials at 502-564-8100 to ask for their support of this important piece of legislation.

Jill Seyfred is the executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky.