One topic around which Kentuckians can unite is that of protecting the Commonwealth’s youngest citizens. How we do that, of course, is often debated and discussed. Talk to 10 people, and you will get 10 different responses. One idea that has been introduced the past two years to our elected officials serving in Frankfort is that of opening child and neglect proceedings within the Commonwealth’s juvenile court system. This marks the second consecutive year in which Sen. Julie Raque Adams has proposed legislation to move our state in the right direction by allowing the creation of a small number of pilot sites in Kentucky courts. The intent of this legislation is to promote “transparency, accountability, and systems improvement.” Children benefit when decisions made by the professionals operating in the system are subject to public scrutiny, and the public will benefit from a greater understanding of the complexities of the child welfare system.
Senator Adam’s proposal, Senate Bill 40 (SB 40), utilizes a commonsense approach to moving our state toward greater openness. Beginning with pilot sites will allow Kentucky to identify and refine best practices before implementation in every jurisdiction. SB 40 also contains safeguards which effectively balance the public’s need for information with a child’s legitimate interest in confidentiality. This balance is achieved by exclusion of all child sexual abuse cases, prohibiting the use of recording equipment in juvenile court proceedings, and allowing the judge to close hearings upon a motion and finding that opening the proceedings would be detrimental to the child.
Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky strongly supports this important legislation. As evidenced from the past two reports released by the Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Panel, this legislation is an important step in preventing child abuse deaths. We encourage the Kentucky General Assembly, and the Bevin administration, to support this effort to provide a safeguard for our children.
Senate Bill 40 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 11, and is now headed to the full Senate for a vote. We urge you to contact your elected official at 502-564-8100 to ask for their support of this important piece of legislation.
Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky is Kentucky’s leading statewide child abuse prevention organization. To learn more about what we’re doing to prevent child abuse and neglect and how you can help, please visit www.pcaky.org.