Preventing child abuse: Social workers will get special attention during 2018 budget session, Senate Health and Welfare chair says

05/17/2017 04:08 PM

Child abuse is a growing problem in the commonwealth; the General Assembly passed laws aimed at combating the uptick in reported abuse cases during the 2017 session, but Senate Health and Welfare chair Julie Raque Adams says there will be more work during the budget writing session next year.

The number of reported cases of abuse in Kentucky is staggering. More than 8,000 kids are in the care of the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The number of cases of abuse and neglect has been rising with more than 15,000 cases last year – a 55 percent increase from 2012.

Tens of thousands of Kentucky kids go abused or neglected every year, and Adams said one way to deal with the issue could be to shine more light on juvenile proceedings and revamping social work.

“We have too few social workers. We don’t pay them enough money, and they carry too heavy of a burden with their caseloads,” Adams said. “It’s almost unrealistic to think we put this pressure on this segment of state worker — that really they’re doomed to fail, because we’re not setting up a scenario where they can be successful.”

“I want to see a focus on case workers and how we do them better. How we get more in, how we pay them more,” Adams continued. “They really do protect our most vulnerable.”

Work over the interim months, should set the state up for “realistic figures” on how to pay social workers more money and lessen caseloads.

Adams said she thinks the Bevin administration has made the issue a priority, and she hopes the state can focus on social workers next session.

When asked if the Department of Community Based Services also needs to be reviewed when considering potential reforms to save the lives of children, Adams said top-down reviews can be beneficial for government.

Adams, said the General Assmebly passed legislation earlier this year that would require school districts, in-home care givers and or state supported parks to check with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to prove they have no substantiated instances of child abuse.

The law requires new hires at school districts to obtain letters from the health cabinet indicating that they have no substantiated instances of child abuse or neglect on their records.

“I really feel as if this is a way we have been able to close that loop and protect kids better than we had been doing,” Adams said.

Watch the full segment below for Adams take on reforming adoption and foster care in the state and the salary awarded to the newly named adoption czar.

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