A state Senate bill aimed at closing gaps in Kentucky’s child abuse reporting unanimously passed out of committee Tuesday morning.
Senate Bill 229 “ensures the reporting of child abuse or neglect is properly communicated to the appropriate external agencies,” the primary sponsor, Julie Raque Adams (R-Louisville), told her colleagues in the Senate Families & Children Committee.
The bill cleared the committee with seven yes votes. No one voted against it.
The legislation “clarifies that agencies cannot utilize a chain of command maltreatment reporting process,” Raque Adams added.
The Department for Community Based Services can also make either announced or unannounced home visits, Raque Adams said, depending on the severity of a case.
Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, called the bill an “important effort to keep more kids safe.”
DCBS discretion on home visits, he said, “is especially pertinent when a report of abuse and neglect is found to not meet the criteria for investigation but does clearly demonstrate that a family may be in need of services that could prevent child abuse or neglect from occurring in the future.”
Caroline La Rochelle, CEO of Children’s Advocacy Center of Kentucky, spoke alongside Raque Adams in support of 229, which has bipartisan support.
“These cases are complex. Children are complex. They have medical needs. They have mental health needs. There are prosecution needs if the case is going to move forward to prosecution,” Rochelle said. “It is now well-respected best practice not only in the state of Kentucky but all over the country that involving multiple agencies in the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases is the best thing not only for the child and family but for those investigating and for the communities.”
The Child Maltreatment 2021 report, from the United States Department of Health & Human Services, found that Kentucky had 14,963 child victims in 2021.
That number is down from 2020 (16,748), 2019 (20,130) and 2018 (23,752), the Lantern previously reported.
Kentucky’s rate of child victims – 14.7 – places it as sixth in the U.S., behind Alaska, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts and West Virginia. Kentucky improved 33% since 2017. The national rate is 8.1 per 1,000 children.
Eleven Kentucky children died from maltreatment in 2021, up from nine in 2020. There were 12 child maltreatment fatalities reported in 2019, six in 2018 and 10 in 2017.
Written by Sarah Ladd. Cross-posted from the Kentucky Lantern.