Friday, December 22, 2006

No parent representatives on adoption review panel

Task force to review removal of children by state
Some challenge speed of process
Yetter, Deborah. Louisville Courier-Journal, July 6, 2006, pg. B1.

Prompted by continuing concerns about Kentucky's child-welfare system, state officials announced yesterday that a task force will review what happens after children are removed from homes because of abuse or neglect.

The 12-member task force of advocates, lawmakers, social workers and others will study the removal process and when to try to place children for adoption.

Mark D. Birdwhistell, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, announced the task force and will be its chairman.

Jennifer Jewell of Women in Transition, which helps low-income parents involved in the child welfare system, said she was glad to hear of the task force but believes it needs to include parents.

"And not just a parent that's a token representative, but someone who can come and actually have a voice and speak about their issues," said Jewell, a Louisville resident.

Tom Emberton Jr., commissioner of social services, said he hopes to add parent representatives and expects the task force will invite parents to speak as part of its work.

The cabinet's child-welfare system has come under increasing scrutiny in the past six months after a group of advocates said the state is sometimes too quick to remove children from homes and push for adoption, rather than take the time and effort to reunite families.

Last month, several members of the joint House-Senate Health and Welfare Committee expressed concern after hearing a Lexington woman testify about how she believed social workers treated her unfairly and tried to push her four children into an unsuitable adoptive home.

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, which helped produce the initial findings in January of problems in the system, will serve on the task force.

Brooks said his group continues to get calls about problems.

"I'm convinced the issues are just as severe," he said.

Other members of the task force are: State Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville; state Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville; David Cozart, Lexington Local Investment Commission; Kay Hoffman, dean of the University of Kentucky School of Social Work; Judy Lambeth, president, Maryhurst; Kent Ostrander, Family Foundation of Kentucky; Michelle Sanborn, Children's Alliance; Terry Singer, dean, University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work; Sky Tanghe, social worker; state Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington; and Patrick Yewell, general manager, Administrative Office of the Courts.


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