Kenton District Judge Ken Easterling Blasts Health and Family Services for Secrecy and Lack of Protection to Endangered Children

Ja. 27, 2011

Kenton County District Judge Ken Easterling blasted the state agency assigned to protect Kentucky’s children Wednesday during a preliminary hearing for a mother whose child died after becoming wedged between a mattress and wall atop a baseboard heater.

Gray, 26, was in an alcohol- and prescription drug-induced sleep when her child died,

Easterling said “The cabinet is a very closed, shrouded in secrecy, agency. You don’t have the opportunity to find out what they do.”

Easterling said it was “like asking Richard Nixon to review what happened in Watergate.” “It is self-serving, and it leaves the community with very little confidence. It leaves me with very little confidence,” Easterling said. His concerns appeared to be more aimed at policy makers in Frankfort than local social workers.

“There are some very dedicated child support workers, who work day and night,” Easterling said.

He said that when he was a prosecutor several years ago, cabinet officials discouraged the placement of children in state care because Kenton County had a disproportionate number of children being removed from their homes compared to Lexington and Louisville.

Easterling said the state once declined to take custody of children living in a home with no heat or electricity. He said the water pipes had broken and there was an ice waterfall down the steps of the family’s home.

Easterling said Northern Kentucky needs a “function­al child protection agency” in order to reduce its infant mortality rate – one of the highest in Kentucky. He called it “repulsive” that he has to “beg the cabinet to do anything.” “We are woeful in what that state gives us, and it is criminal,” Easterling said. “This is a thriving community.” Easterling then challenged the cabinet to become more transparent.

“I ask the cabinet to step outside the shield of secrecy, confidentiality,” he said.

Easterling said the community deserves answers on what cabinet officials in Frankfort are doing to reduce infant deaths such as Anthia’s.

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