Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Communications Office
Governor Ernie Fletcher Signs ‘Boni Bill’ Into Law
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Ernie Fletcher today signed Senate Bill 59 – the “Boni Frederick Memorial Bill” – into law. The new law provides $6 million to improve safety for state human services workers and hire more staff. The Governor announced the signing during a ceremony at a Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) office in Louisville.
The Boni Frederick Memorial Bill provides $3.5 million to fund security improvements at state child welfare offices. Another $2.5 million will be used to hire additional front-line staff.
“The new law is a good start for the changes we need to bolster the security of the child protection system,” Governor Fletcher said. “The measures I signed into law today will protect both social services staff and the families – particularly the children – they serve.”
The legislation is named for Boni Frederick, a Morganfield social services aide who died in the line of duty last October. Frederick, who worked in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) in its Union County DCBS office, was responsible for transporting state foster children to medical appointments and visits with birth parents.
The law also calls for the implementation of several safety elements, including giving staff devices enabled with “panic buttons” and global positioning system capabilities.
Governor Fletcher and CHFS Secretary Mark D. Birdwhistell signed a declaration of emergency circumstances releasing the law’s funding to CHFS immediately.
“One of the best aspects of this law is that social services workers will see a difference almost immediately,” said Sen. Charlie Borders (R-Russell). “Their office security will be tightened, and with faster access to criminal records of families being served, they will know sooner when something is amiss.”
Rep. Tom Burch (D-Louisville), said, “Passage of the Boni Bill is just the beginning of a safety net for our social workers and we plan to do more in the near future.”
Under the new law, local DCBS offices will receive security enhancements such as buzzer-entry systems that restrict access to staff work areas from front lobbies. DCBS staff will also have 24-hour access to criminal records.
Birdwhistell said he and his staff welcome the long-sought legislation.
“From the tragedy of Ms. Frederick’s death has emerged much-needed support for improving the safety of our social services staff, as well as an awareness of the valuable work they perform each and every day,” Secretary Birdwhistell said.
Another of the law’s measures establishes a work group to include cabinet representatives and community advocates who will study child welfare and suggest methods for improving the system.
At the event, Governor Fletcher also signed HJR 137, a resolution that provides resources to the CHFS Office of the Ombudsman to allow staff to review complaints stemming from child protective services cases.