By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — Retired Franklin Circuit Court Judge Roger Crittenden will head a new independent panel that will examine deaths and severe injuries involving abused or neglected children in Kentucky.
Crittenden was one of 17 people named to the Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel on Wednesday. Attorney General Jack Conway appointed many of the members of the panel. Others were appointed by their peer groups.
The external review panel, which Gov. Steve Beshear created in July, includes doctors, prosecutors, social workers, advocates and police officers.
The group will meet quarterly, review all child deaths and near deaths resulting from abuse or neglect, and issue annual reports that will be posted online and sent to Beshear, Chief Supreme Court Justice John D. Minton and the legislature. In addition, the panel will make recommendations when needed on how to strengthen child protection within the cabinet and in outside agencies.
“In those instances when a child dies or is critically injured because of abuse or neglect, we must carefully examine the practices of the government entities whose job it is to prevent such tragedies,” Beshear said. “What we learn will help us implement new policies if needed. This panel will play a critical role in our efforts to protect Kentucky’s children.”
The external review panel will be housed in the Cabinet for Justice and Public Safety and will be separate from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which oversees Kentucky’s child protection workers. The cabinet is required to do its own internal review after the death or near-death of a child as a result of abuse.
Advocates pushed for an external review panel after several news stories questioned how the cabinet was conducting its internal reviews. In some cases, the cabinet admitted that no internal review was conducted after a child died from abuse.
A Lexington Herald-Leader review found wide inconsistencies in how different child-protection offices around the state conducted internal reviews in 2009 and 2010, and in the scope of recommendations they produced. Some of the reviews appeared to be thorough, but in others, child-protection workers produced only one-page reports with little detail on what happened to the children and no assessment of potential improvements.
Some of the other people named to the new panel include Dr. Melissa Currie, a University of Louisville pediatrician and one of the leading authorities in Kentucky on child abuse deaths; Dr. Tracey Corey, the state medical examiner; Jenny Pitts Oldham, the Hardin County Attorney; and Sherry Currens, the executive director of the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association.
Non-voting members of the panel include Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee; Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, chairwoman of Senate Health and Welfare committee; and Teresa James, the commissioner of the Department for Community Based Services, which oversees child protection.
A date for the first meeting of the panel has not yet been set.
The members of the panel are:
Rep. Tom Burch, of Louisville, is Chair of the House Health and Welfare Committee.
He serves as an ex officio, nonvoting member.
Sen. Julie Denton, of Louisville, is Chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. She serves as an ex officio, nonvoting member.
Teresa James is the Commissioner of Department for Community Based Services. She serves as an ex officio, nonvoting member.
Family Court Judge Brent Hall, of Elizabethtown, serves as an ex officio, nonvoting member and is selected by the Chief Justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Dr. Carmel Wallace, of Lexington, represents physicians for the University of Kentucky’s Department of Pediatrics’ Medical Home Clinic and is selected by the Attorney General.
Dr. Melissa Currie, of Louisville, represents a board-certified child abuse pediatrician from the University of Louisville’s Forensic Medicine program and is selected by the Attorney General.
Dr. Tracey Corey, of Louisville, is the state medical examiner.
Andrea Goin, of Evansville, Ind., is the Henderson County Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Director for The Children’s Advocacy Center of Green River District. She represents CASA program directors and is selected by the Attorney General.
Kevin Calhoon, of Frankfort, represents peace officers with experience investigating child abuse and neglect fatalities and near fatalities, and is selected by the Attorney General.
Joel T. Griffith, of Dry Ridge, represents Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky Inc. and is selected by the Attorney General.
Jenny Pitts Oldham, of Elizabethtown, is the Hardin County Attorney. She represents practicing local prosecutors and is selected by the Attorney General.
Sharon Currens, of Frankfort, is the executive director of the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association.
Dr. Ruth Shepherd, of Frankfort, is the acting chair of the State Child Fatality Review Team.
Robert Walker, of Lexington, represents practicing social work clinicians and is selected by the Attorney General.
Carmella Yates, of Lexington, represents practicing addiction counselors and is selected by the Attorney General.
Maxine Reid, of Barbourville, represents Family Resource and Youth Service Centers and is selected by the Attorney General.
Judge Roger Crittenden, of Frankfort, is an at large representative selected by the Attorney General. Judge Crittenden will serve as chair of the panel.