By Michael Broihier
In an op-ed you will find below, Governor Steve Beshear seeks to distract taxpayers from real problems within the Cabinet for Family and Human Services that has allowed dozens of children placed in the state’s foster care and adoption system to be abused, injured and sometimes killed.
The facts are simple. While in the care of the state, too many children are being physically, mentally and/or sexually abused, assaulted and sometimes killed and the cabinet has failed in its oversight role to prevent this from happening.
You would not even know that this was going on if it had not been for yeomen work of newspaper reporters, and Beshear’s transparent attempt to shift the blame to those who’ve served the watchdog role that his administration has failed to fulfill is insulting to you and unbecoming of him.
Gov. Beshear has unwisely chosen to ignore what Mark Twain is widely credited with saying, “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” The failures of the cabinet are inexcusable and Gov. Beshear’s response to the reporting inexplicable. Before he gets sucked down the drainpipe of history he needs reform the state’s childcare system and embrace Kentucky Sunshine Laws that ensure that the people, through the press, have unfettered access to paperwork that records the state’s business, good or bad.
Other than that, I have no strong opinions.Gov. Steve Beshear
You teach in a small community and suspect a student is being abused. You want to report it, but you fear retaliation.
Can you come forward without the newspaper naming you as the accuser?
Or maybe you’re a grandmother. You worry about the man your daughter is living with, in fact you’re afraid of him. But you love your grandchildren, and you think they’re being neglected.
Will you be able to report your suspicion without alerting your daughter’s volatile and unstable boyfriend and jeopardizing your own safety?
The answer to both scenarios, unfortunately, is “no.”
If a case of suspected child abuse and/or neglect later results in death or serious injury, and you reported it, your name and your concerns likely will be released to anybody who asks, whether that’s a TV reporter, a blogger or even the accused. That’s one of the real-life consequences of a new judicial ruling related to state records on investigations of child abuse and neglect.
The ruling, issued Jan. 19 in Franklin Circuit Court, stems from litigation involving Kentucky newspapers’ attempts to access records involving cases that resulted in a child’s death or serious injury.
An attorney for the newspapers has argued that no information whatsoever should be kept confidential, and that the public should have unfettered access to these records.
The judge disagreed. He said the Cabinet for Health and Family Services can black out certain information, such as names of children seriously injured in cases of abuse; Social Security numbers and other financial information; the names of other children in the family who weren’t involved; and the names of private citizens who report abuse - but the names of relatives, police officers and school officials who report abuse will be made public.
But we don’t think the judge’s ruling was protective enough, and so the Cabinet recently filed notice that it would appeal.
Newspapers will criticize the state for this decision. After all, they get to write the headlines. To date, the Cabinet has been accused of “operating under a veil of secrecy” in a supposed attempt to protect
inept workers and a poorly designed system.