Monday, January 22, 2007

'No comment,' says Cabinet to weeping mothers

Better child-welfare system sought
Familes air views on system at forum
Yetter, Deborah. Louisville Courier-Journal, Jan. 18, 2007, pg. B1.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Yvonne Gagen said she believes being homeless and illiterate caused her to lose her children.

A weeping Gagen was among about 20 people who spoke at a public forum yesterday on how the state's child-welfare system could better serve parents and children.

"I don't understand why they took my kids away," said Gagen, 23, of Louisville, who said she never learned to read because of a learning disability.

About 75 people attended yesterday's forum, held to allow families to express their views about how the state handles child abuse and neglect allegations, foster care and adoption.

Many are members of a group called "Women in Transition," an organization representing low-income mothers, some of whom have been involved with child-protective services.

Officials with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services listened but didn't comment or address specific cases at the 2½-hour hearing.

Mark Washington, acting commissioner of social services, thanked those who spoke for their "openness and candor." He said all comments from the hearing will be provided to a task force studying the child-welfare system as part of its work to recommend improvements.

Speakers yesterday recommended changes including:

-Removing the confidentiality that surrounds abuse and neglect investigations and court proceedings.

-Holding social workers accountable to prevent abuses.

-Improving services through the ombudsman's office, which handles complaints.

-Producing clearer policies for when to remove a child from a home or terminate a parent's rights and make sure parents are informed of them.

-Giving parents better legal assistance, including possible help with appeals of adverse decisions.

Lorie Cox of Louisville said after her parental rights were terminated, she wanted to appeal but couldn't afford a lawyer.

"I went to the law libraries and did my own brief," said Cox, who said she is waiting to hear the results of the appeal.

Others suggested recent problems detailed in the cabinet's Hardin County region are more widespread.

An investigation released last week by the cabinet's inspector general found that some social workers and supervisors had lied in court, falsified records and mistreated families they were supervising.

"There should be a statewide, full-blown investigation," said Aldonica Kiger, 32, of Lexington.


Post a Comment

<< Home