- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2007

FRANKFORT, Ky.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, reacting to the grisly slaying of a Kentucky child welfare worker during a home visit, are pushing a bill intended to take some of the risk out of what they say can be one of the nation’s most dangerous jobs.

Boni Frederick was stabbed and beaten when she took a 10-month-old boy to his mother’s house for a visit near Henderson in western Kentucky in October. Her death focused attention on the risks social workers face in volatile situations and created a groundswell of support for what is being called the Boni Bill.

The legislation, introduced last week, would equip all state social workers with two-way radios with panic buttons. It also would require that supervised visits between parents and their abused or neglected children take place in neutral locations.

“When you get involved with removing children from a home, it gets very, very dangerous,” said state Rep. Tom Burch, a Louisville Democrat. “You don’t know what your reaction would be if someone came in to take your child away.”

The legislation will cost about $20 million to be fully implemented over the next two to three years, Mr. Burch said.

It would add 375 social workers to the 1,400 now on the state payroll, said Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, a Democrat from Hazard. The additional social workers would make it easier to pair up employees who go into risky situations.

Mr. Burch said the neutral locations may include state welfare offices, local health departments, even churches. However, some lawmakers want to open secure visitation centers across the state.

Mr. Fletcher, a Republican, said the issue transcends politics and that he supports funding initiatives in the bill. “I consider this an urgent need,” Mr. Fletcher said.

In the Frederick slaying, prosecutors contend that the baby’s mother and her boyfriend — Renee Terrell, 33, and Christopher Luttrell, 23 — killed Miss Frederick at Miss Terrell’s home, stole Miss Frederick’s car and kidnapped the boy. He was found safe and returned to foster care after a three-day manhunt. Miss Terrell and Mr. Luttrell have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, kidnapping, robbery and theft.

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