- Associated Press - Monday, December 12, 2016

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - An outside panel has concluded that Kentucky’s social service system is “grossly underfunded” as the state’s child protection system struggles with the large number of children whose parents are abusing drugs.

The Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel’s findings were published in its annual report released Monday, the Courier-Journal reported (https://cjky.it/2hFMLSa). The panel is an independent body created four years ago to review the most serious cases of child abuse or neglect.

The number of children who have died or suffered serious injury because of abuse or neglect is rising, the report said. It also found that the system is so underfunded that it can’t fulfill its mission to protect children, the panel added.

“This mission is not a luxury for Kentucky children,” the report said. “There should be adequate resources provided in order to deliver a full-service array to Kentucky’s families and children.

The report also urges the state to better address the problem of babies born addicted to drugs from impaired mothers.

The recommendations address concerns state social service workers have been voicing publicly for months - especially about drug addiction and a shortage of workers to deal with a rising number of cases at the beleaguered agency, the Department for Community Based Services.

The findings present a challenge for the Bevin and the legislature at a time when state resources are tight and the governor is committed to addressing the state’s severely underfunded public pension system as a priority.

Social services, along with many other state departments, has seen funding slashed since 2008 when a deep recession began.

Bevin, who has said child protection, foster care and adoption is also a priority, was able to provide social workers with a raise this year and a new salary schedule that also allows many senior employees to get pay increases.

Workers have said they appreciate the raise but their biggest concern is the overwhelming number of cases they must take on.


Information from: The Courier-Journal, https://www.courier-journal.com

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