By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — An independent panel charged with reviewing child deaths and serious injuries caused by abuse and neglect in Kentucky will meet Tuesday for the first time.
Gov. Steve Beshear established the Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review panel in July, following months of scrutiny by the Lexington Herald-Leader and other media of how the state handles child abuse cases.
Members of the panel — which were appointed by Attorney General Jack Conway and various peer groups — were named in September.
The group is expected to meet once every three months to review all child deaths and near-deaths resulting from abuse or neglect. It must issue annual reports that will be posted online and sent to Beshear, Supreme Court Chief Justice John D. Minton and the legislature. In addition, the panel will make recommendations when needed on how to strengthen child protection efforts by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and other agencies.
The 16-member panel is headed by retired Franklin Circuit Court Judge Roger Crittenden and includes doctors, prosecutors, advocates and police officers. Tuesday’s meeting will focus on how the panel will work and how the group will go about reviewing cases.
The review panel is attached to the Cabinet for Justice and Public Safety for administrative purposes. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is required to conduct its own internal review after the death or severe injury of an abused child with whom it has had prior contact.
Child advocates pushed for an external review panel after several news stories questioned how the cabinet conducted its internal reviews. In some cases, the cabinet admitted that no internal review was conducted after a child died from abuse.