Burch's bill would give review panel -- but not public -- more info about child abuse cases

02/08/2013 11:33 AM

Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, unveiled a bill Friday to make permanent a commission to oversee child abuse and death cases handled by social workers and ensure it has access to more information than a temporary panel created by the governor.

Gov. Steve Beshear created through executive order last year a panel of attorneys, advocates, law enforcement and lawmakers to review how the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services cabinet handles instances of child abuse and death that have been reported.

Some, such as Republican Sen. Julie Denton, R-Lousiville, have complained that the cabinet is providing redacted case files to the panel. Burch’s bill would give the new panel unfiltered access documents. But it would not be subject to open records requests, according to the bill. And the panel could go into executive session away from the public eye to discuss unsubstantiated allegations, Burch said.

Beshear told Pure Politics Friday morning that he hadn’t read all of Burch’s bill yet but wants the child case review panel to become permanent.

“I’m for giving the panel all the records that they need to look at in order to be able make those kinds of determinations,” Beshear said. “The only thing that we’ve got to make sure of is that the open records law applies to that panel and gives that panel the same protections it gives everybody else in terms of the records.”

Burch said making sure the panel can see all of the documentation for why the cabinet acts or fails to act in child abuse cases is key.

Burch was quoted in a press release about the bill saying he wants to “shed light on whether our child protection system has gaps that need to be filled. No secrecy. No withholding. No hiding. No excuses.”

So I asked him whether he thinks the current panel is able to hid behind secrecy:


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