Beshear says hand over child abuse records; cabinet immediately files for more time

Gov. Steve Beshear ordered the release of “state records of children who have been killed or nearly killed as a result of abuse and neglect,” reports Beth Musgrave of the Lexington Herald-Leader. (Photo by H-L’s Pablo Alcala)

“Transparency will be the new rule,” he said at a news conference Tuesday.
But, immediately after he spoke, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services filed a motion in Franklin Circuit Court asking for more time. “It also asked Judge Phillip Shepherd to sharply limit the information the cabinet must release and allow it to remove a significant amount of detail — restrictions that seem to contradict the governor’s pledge of openness,” reports Deborah Yetter of The Courier-Journal.

The two newspapers have been suing the cabinet to see the records, and Shepherd has twice ruled that the newspapers should be able to view them. “State law says that the child protection records are private with one clear exemption — in the deaths or near-deaths of children who have died as a result of abuse or neglect,” Musgrave reports.
The cabinet argued releasing the documents would run counter to federal privacy laws and could lead to a loss in federal funding.
Attorney Jon Fleischaker, who represents the C-J, was not impressed by the governor’s move. “It’s a sham, in my judgment,” he said.
In 2009, both newspapers sued the cabinet after being denied access to documents pertaining to Kayden Branham, a toddler who died after drinking drain cleaner that was reportedly to be used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.
The Todd County Standard likewise sued the cabinet when it refused to turn over documents pertaining to Amy Dye, a 9-year-old who was beaten to death by her adoptive brother. “This crime has drawn a lot of attention, has left this community dazed, confused and angry and searching for answers as to why this could have happened and why this happened,” said Todd Circuit Court Judge Tyler Gill.
The motion filed by the cabinet Tuesday would exclude details of Amy’s case, such as the circumstances of her adoption, the names of her siblings, information about foster care, and the termination of parents’ rights and juvenile court records, “all of which were elements of Amy’s case,” Yetter reports.
Records that Shepherd ordered be released Nov. 7 showed evidence that state social service workers either ignored or dismissed repeated complaints by school officials that Amy was the victim of abuse. “The cabinet had initially denied it had any records, then refused to disclose them, citing confidentiality,” Yetter reports.
At the news conference Tuesday, Beshear said he planned to propose legislation in 2012 to make it more clear as to what information the cabinet is subject to releasing.
To read more in The Courier-Journal, click here.
To read more in the Herald-Leader, click here.
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