Friday, April 27, 2007

KY Summit on Children needs to include people in and from foster care

Summit to focus on children in the courts
Meeting's goal is to improve system
Steitzer, Stephanie, Louisville Courier-Journal, April 25, 2007, pg. B2.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Lambert announced plans yesterday for a summit meeting aimed at improving the way the court system handles children.

Lambert said the Kentucky Summit on Children — to be held in Louisville this summer — would be the first of its kind.

He said it would bring together roughly 500 professionals, including judges, social workers, public defenders and foster parents, to talk about issues such as truancy, substance abuse and foster care.

"There is no more important issue in Kentucky or in any place than the well-being of our children," he said.

The summit is scheduled to be held Aug. 27-30. Afterward, nine regional meetings would be held to get feedback from communities on some of the ideas presented at the Louisville event.

Lambert said he hopes to make a final decision on some of the proposals by the summer of 2008.

Plans for the summit were presented during a meeting of a blue-ribbon panel that has been studying the state's adoption procedures since last August.

The 13-member panel has been looking into complaints that some parents have had their rights terminated too soon because courts across the state are inconsistent and some judges aren't properly trained in family law.

Mark Birdwhistell, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said he has strengthened standards for placing children in the care of relatives. He said the cabinet also has worked to provide more training to front-line staff and developed a checklist to help judges ensure due process for children and birth parents.

More changes, including possible legislation, could result from the work of the blue-ribbon panel and the summit, officials say.


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