Kentucky Supreme Court Orders Publicly Release Of Child Abuse Records

The number of reported child abuse/neglect cases in Kentucky continues to rise. Over the past five state fiscal years, SFY, (2008 to 2012), it has increased by more than 5,700. In SFY 2012, there were 15,699 children abused or neglected. In SFY 2011,15,510 children across Kentucky were victims of abuse or neglect. There were 15,083 children in SFY 2010, 14,475 children in SFY 2009 and 14,695 children in SFY 2008.

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Child abuse or neglect cases
A total of 386 fatalities and near fatalities due to abuse or neglect was reported during SFY 2008 to 2012. Of those cases, more than half, or 214, had prior involvement with the Department for Community Based Services Division of Protection and Permanency. The latter is one of the agencies of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. It is responsible for the administration of child protection and permanency and family support programs.

Of the 214 cases, 99 were a result of physical abuse and 114 were a result of neglect. Inflicted head injury is the leading cause of death or serious injury. Forty-four percent of the victims suffered from head injuries. Thirty-three percent of the physical abuse deaths or near deaths resulted from multiple injuries. Intentional suffocation accounted for seven percent of victims and intentional shooting caused the death of six percent of victims.

Stop child abuse
Kentucky engages in different program improvement efforts and initiatives to prevent and stop child abuse. These include: trainings, research and workshops. In order to assess how effectively the Cabinet for Health and Family Services is doing its job in protecting children, the Kentucky Supreme Court recently ordered Kentucky welfare officials to publicly release records of child abuse cases resulting in death or serious injuries. The order upheld the ruling of Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd in February 2012. Shepherd ruled that child abuse records should be disclosed to newspapers particularly “The Courier-Journal” and the “Lexington Herald-Leader.” According to Shepherd, there had been redactions and deletions in the case files. That makes it difficult to gauge the effectiveness of the Cabinet in performing its job. With his ruling, the newspapers may question the deletions and ask the officials to explain each deletion.

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As a Kentucky Child Accident Attorney, I am glad that the Kentucky Supreme Court made a good decision. I hate to hear that there are an escalating number of child abuse and neglect cases. One way to bring it to an end is to make it public. Letting people know about child abuse or neglect cases through newspapers and online will help raise public awareness and send the message that child abuse or neglect must end.

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