Governor Steve Beshear today announced the 17 members of a panel that will help ensure that state agencies meet the policies and standards expected in cases of child abuse and neglect.
Created by an executive order in July, the Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel will conduct comprehensive reviews of child fatalities and near fatalities that are determined to be the result of child abuse or neglect.
"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," Gov. 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 independent panel will be attached to the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet for staff and administrative purposes. Its members include a wide range of disciplines and stakeholders, including those of law enforcement and social services, and representatives of all three branches of state government. The members who are not serving by virtue of their office are nominated by external peer committees and selected for service by the Attorney General.
"The child fatality and near fatality review panel's work will help guide state leaders in improving the critical social safety net for our most vulnerable children," Attorney General Jack Conway said. "I am confident each of the appointees I have selected to serve will endeavor to add his or her professional perspective to this important effort."
Members will meet quarterly to review official records, case files, or information relating to child fatalities or near fatalities and analyze the medical, psychosocial and legal circumstances of the child to identify conditions that contributed to the death or serious injury. The panel will recommend improvements to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) and to any other public or private agencies involved with the family relating to protocols, practice, training or other protections to keep children safe.
The panel will also publish an annual report of case reviews, findings and recommendations that will be submitted to the Governor, the CHFS Secretary, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the General Assembly and will be available to the public on the websites of both the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and CHFS.
"The Justice Cabinet stands prepared to offer its support and resources to Chairman Crittenden and members of the panel as the group takes on this important responsibility," said Secretary J. Michael Brown of the Justice Cabinet.
"In a perfect world, there would be no need for this panel because all of our children would be safe. But this is the real world, and the tragic deaths of innocent children are an unfortunate reality," said CHFS Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes. "The Cabinet is pleased that Governor Beshear has appointed such a distinguished and well-rounded group of professionals to serve on the child fatality review panel and pledges its full support and cooperation as the panel reviews cases and makes recommendations that will further improve our investigations process."
"Child safety is paramount to the work of the Department of Community Based Services, and we welcome any opportunity to improve the protection of Kentucky's children," said DCBS Commissioner Teresa James. "The department appreciates the willingness of the panel members to do the difficult job of reviewing heartbreaking cases that involve the death or near death of a child. We look forward to the panel's recommendations, which we are confident will enhance the health and safety of Kentucky's children."
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.