Health and Family Services Cabinet
State forms task force on adoption procedures; Group will make recommendations to improve child welfare policy
FRANKFORT, Ky. (July 5, 2006) – Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Mark D. Birdwhistell has appointed a 12-member blue ribbon panel to explore the agency’s adoptions procedures.
The group will review the process and current practices that lead to the termination of parental rights and adoption of the children in the state’s child welfare system. Birdwhistell will serve as the group’s chairman.
“Members of this group represent the community advocacy groups, the state legislature, the court system, academics and social workers,” Birdwhistell said. “These are the people who are invested in the lives of our foster children who await adoption. Their ideas and perspective will help us strengthen the policy that guides our work.”
The group’s first priority will be the children, said Tom Emberton Jr., commissioner of the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS), the office that oversees public adoptions.
“We look forward to working with this panel to achieve good outcomes for children,” he said. “We are asking for an honest assessment of our practices.”
DCBS staff already works closely with many of the panel members, Emberton said. “We particularly appreciate the broad spectrum of experience the members of this group brings to their mission.”
Emberton said his staff will wholly support the task force and its evaluation of the department’s steps to terminating parental rights and adoption.
“Our staff of 4,700 dedicated professionals is committed to making changes that will enhance our current process,” he said. “We will listen as the group makes recommendations to ensure a fair and equitable process.”
Emberton said his staff works harder every year since the number of children coming into state care increases because of issues like physical and substance abuse.
The panel’s first meeting will be scheduled for later this summer.
The group’s formation is one of several safeguards the cabinet has implemented to ensure against problems that could result during the adoption process.
Foster Care Review Boards provide a system of checks and balances to ensure a child’s best interest is being served. Cabinet staff members may anonymously voice their concerns about an adoption custody decision to central office administrators, who determine if any action is needed.
Also, upon the request of DCBS, the cabinet’s Office of the Inspector General is investigating adoption practices at the Hardin County Department for Community Based Services office after a report from Kentucky Youth Advocates raised concerns within the cabinet. The OIG’s internal affairs officer is leading the investigation along with the OIG’s Division of Special Investigations.
Members of the panel are as follows:
Terry Brooks – Executive Director, Kentucky Youth Advocates
Tom Burch – State Representative, D-Louisville
David Cozart – Community Involvement Manager, Lexington Local Investment Commission (LexLinc)
Julie Denton – State Senator, R-Louisville
Kay Hoffman – Dean, University of Kentucky School of Social Work
Judy Lambeth – President and CEO, Maryhurst
Kent Ostrander -- Executive Director, Family Foundation of Kentucky
Michelle Sanborn – Director of Public Policy, Children’s Alliance; former DCBS Director of Protection and Permanency
Terry Singer – Dean, University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work
Sky Tanghe – Social worker, Jefferson County Department for Community Based Services
Susan Westrom – State Representative, D-Lexington
Patrick Yewell – General Manager, Administrative Office of the Courts
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