Bill to protect children from child care provider abuse passes Senate committee

03/01/2017 02:41 PM

FRANKFORT – Legislation to potentially protect kids from abusive child care providers was unanimously passed by the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 236, sponsored by Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, would permit a parent or legal guardian to request a background check of the child abuse and neglect registry records when employing a child care provider for his or her minor child. The bill would also require the Cabinet of Health and Family Services to make the request form available on its website.

If a child care provider was found to have no abuse or neglect within the registry the Cabinet for Health and Family Services would send a letter stating they’ve found no findings of substantiated abuse or neglect.

The cabinet would then notify the individual on whom the background check was completed of the results.

If the results did find evidence of child abuse or neglect in the registry, the cabinet would send the individual the results of the search.

In addition, the legislation would require school superintendents conduct a background check of child abuse and neglect records maintained by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services when considering employment decisions, prohibit youth camps from employing or allowing the involvement of any individual who has been convicted of a criminal offense against a minor or a sex crime who is a violent offender or has abused or neglected a child, and require youth camps to obtain state and national criminal background checks of applicants, contractors, or volunteers.

Dr. Brooke Jones, a pediatrician with Kosair Children’s in Louisville, feels that the bill is needed to add a further layer of protection to children under child care provider care.

“Many settings who care for children already have some sort of background requirements but these requirements vary through the settings, so strengthening background checks will help protect our kids and our systems,” Jones said.

The committee heard riveting testimony from Lori Brent of Henry County whose 4-month old son Jake suffered physical abuse from his babysitter.

“I sat there in that hospital trying to understand how this could have happened,” Brent said. “I knew in my heart who did this, but tried so hard not to believe it.”

Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington, expressed concerns with Cabinet for Health and Family Services Deputy Director Tim Feeley that the bill, as currently written, does not call for background checks of boyfriends of women who are living with the woman and her children.

“This bill is only limited to someone who is employed, a child care provider, or a camp counselor who is volunteering to counsel young children at a camp,” Thomas said. “I don’t see this bill as reaching far enough.

“It may not be applicable to the situation that you spoke of,” Feely said. “Maybe that’s something that we need to look at down the road and maybe have a floor amendment on that because we do the fatality or near fatality committee and often a scenario that comes up is a child would be harmed by a boyfriend or caretaker who’s not the biological father of the child.”

Dr. Terry Brooks, the executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, applauded members of the committee for passing the bill.

“Kentucky kids deserve to grow and thrive free from abuse and neglect, and they depend on adults to keep them safe,” Brooks said in a statement. “SB 236 would increase the safety of children in the care of adults by ensuring employers have access to the necessary information about employees and volunteers so they are able to make an informed decision on allowing that person to work with children.”

The bill moves on to the full Senate for consideration.

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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