By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — A bill that would establish an independent review panel in Kentucky to examine deaths and critical injuries from child abuse or neglect appears poised to become law.
Late Thursday night, the Senate passed House Bill 290, which would create a 20-person external review panel of experts to examine child abuse deaths and make recommendations on how to improve the state’s child-protection system.
The House approved HB 290 last month, but the Senate made changes to the bill to increase transparency and improve oversight. The measure now goes back to the House, where it is expected to be given final approval. Gov. Steve Beshear could then veto the bill, sign it into law or let it become law without his signature.
Beshear created a similar independent panel by executive order in July after newspaper stories highlighted shortcomings in the child-protection system. For the panel to continue, it needs legislative approval.
The panel has met twice since July but has been given censored copies of social worker case files. HB 290 would let the panel see uncensored case files from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and would allow it to ask for information from other agencies, such as the Kentucky State Police.
The panel — which consists of prosecutors, social workers, police and other advocates — will be housed in the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet but the legislature’s Investigations and Program Review Committee will have some oversight of the panel.