Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)


April 4, 2012

How many more Amy Dyes will it take?

April 4, 2012 —     The next time you hear a state legislator brag that the General Assembly is the “people’s branch” of government, ask them if foster kids are included in that definition of “people.”

    The answer must be “no” because it appears the statewide indignation expressed last year over a murdered foster child went for naught in this year’s legislative session.

    We put Amy Dye’s name in the headline of this editorial because she was the nine-year-old girl beaten to death by her adoptive older brother, now serving 50 years in prison.

    It was last fall when Gov. Steve Beshear promised that "transparency will be the new rule" in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) in cases involving death or serious injury of children under state protection.

    He made that comment while supposedly ordering the CHFS to make its official records of abused foster and adopted kids available to the public through the news media.

    Soon thereafter, three newspapers won a court battle to have the records released but the CHFS appealed and the case now is tied up in the courts.

    The governor skillfully the deflected the heat from himself and his administration by saying the issue should be resolved by the General Assembly.

    He later appointed a new secretary of that cabinet.

    Regrettably, we’ve seen 59 of the 60 legislative days come and go and there has yet to be any real debate or exchange of views on how and why the CHFS brazenly defies the state’s open records law.

    Even worse, a bill is pending that would add another layer of bureaucracy to the Frankfort maze that keeps official records of abused kids hidden from public view.

    Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington introduced a bill to strengthen the profession of social work and to let the light of day into child abuse records but those good intentions have been subverted to produce a bill actually favored by the CHFS lawyers who know how to cover the agency’s behind in such matters.

    Jon Fleischaker, an attorney for the Kentucky Press Association and the state’s acknowledged authority on open records and open meetings, says the language in Senate Bill 126 would "add another layer of secrecy."

    In our view, the bottom line is that there is no real child protection legislation coming out of this session of the General Assembly.

    How many more Amy Dyes will die before Kentucky decides that the right of kids to be safe is more important than the right to privacy of families that abuse their foster or adopted children?

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