The title of this article from today’s Herald Leader was a bit too prophetic to be accidental: “Child protection revisions all but dead“. The impetus for this bill began back with the Office of Inspector General’s report many long months ago. Let’s parse through this article:
A bill that would have opened Kentucky’s child protection courts to the public on a limited basis was rejected Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee. And measures that would improve procedures in child protection courts and require ethics training for social workers have been procedurally buried.
Ethics training? Obviously too radical an idea.
Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, who sponsored a bill on training social workers, said that officials from the Cabinet, which oversees the system, want to kill it.
“They are trying to keep me from creating a system of checks and balances,” said Westrom.
Checks and balances placed on the government. . . hmmm – where have I heard that idea before?
But Rep. Robin Webb, an attorney, said she didn’t think the bill went far enough to protect information about children whose futures are being decided in the courts.
“The child’s interest is my No. 1 concern,” said Webb, D-Grayson. “I don’t want it in my county.”
I’m confused – does she not want the ethics in her county, the checks and balances . . . maybe she means that everyone else’s number one concern is promoting child abuse, hmmm. Nope, still confused.
And Rep. Brent Yonts said he was concerned that the legislation would allow people in the community to spread information they heard in hearings.
“How do you keep the town gossip from talking?,” said Yonts, D-Greenville.
Heaven forbid that the town gossip would wander into court and discover that the neighbor’s children were removed. The absence of the children wouldn’t have tipped him off. The police cars and social workers taking the kids to the cars wouldn’t have tipped him off. Oh, thank God we can now keep the removal of the children a secret so people won’t talk.
But Westrom said that legislation is in jeopardy because it calls for increasing the fees for court-appointed attorneys for children and parents for the first time since the 1980s. House Bill 151, drafted by the Cabinet’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Adoption, will be sent to the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, which Westrom said could be “a graveyard for bills.”
That was a close one. If these parents started getting court appointed attorney’s that were compensated as well as those representing criminals in federal court, they might start challenging the Cabinet more. We woudn’t want them getting ideas of seeking legal protections now would we?!
Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, said that Family Court Judges in Fayette County were against House Bill 151, so he voted against it.
I know this is untrue. Mr. Lee shouldn’t make such sweeping and inaccurate statements. There was a concern about the practicality of having attorney’s present and representing parents at the temporary removal hearing, but still have that hearing within the statutorily mandated timeframe. Mr. Lee, though, makes it sound like ALL the judges were against the ENTIRE bill and that is patently false. Besides, does Stan Lee ONLY represent the Family Court Judges or is he supposed to represent the community?
In regard to a third bill, Cabinet spokesperson Vikki Franklin said Wednesday that training curriculum for social workers is already sufficient. She said that a bill sponsored by Westrom would be costly and decrease the amount of time social workers could spend on services.
It never was sufficient before and from what I have seen and heard, it still is not sufficient.
However, Westrom says the additional training called for in her legislation is necessary and won’t cost the Cabinet money.
“The Cabinet would rather pay $425,000 to settle whistleblower lawsuits than train their social workers,” Westrom said, referring to a recent case in which former social workers said the Cabinet mishandled cases.
Did I mention that Susan Westrom has a Master’s degree in Social Work.
Meanwhile, Cabinet officials say they have made internal changes that address the problems involving improper removal of children.
And those measures are . . . ? Oh, that must be the information that must be kept behind closed doors to protect the children’s privacy.
Child Advocate David Richart said yesterday that the Cabinet’s resistance to change was the basic reason the reform legislation failed.
Resistant to change is such a harsh criticism. Let’s reframe that to being glad that the Cabinet is consistent and predictable.