Health and Family Services Cabinet
Adoption Task Force Lays Groundwork at Initial Meeting; Group charged with ensuring fair process for families, children

Press Release Date:  Monday, August 07, 2006  
Contact Information:  Anya Armes Weber, (502) 564-6180 or Vikki Franklin, (502) 564-7042  


FRANKFORT, Ky. (Aug. 7, 2006) – The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ blue ribbon panel on adoption met for the first time today, giving members an opportunity to become more familiar with the cabinet’s adoption policies and standards of practice.

Cabinet Secretary Mark D. Birdwhistell, who serves as the group’s chairman, said he chose to lead the group himself because his goal is to personally hear the many voices on state adoption.

”I have received much input over the past few months from all sides, those who say the system is flawed and those who say it’s working well,” he said. “So I feel I must talk to and – more importantly – listen to the varying perspectives to be able to address issues most effectively.”

The 12-member group’s goal is to review the process and current practices that lead to the termination of parental rights and adoption of children in the state’s child welfare system and to identify opportunities for improvement.

Today, the group discussed statutes and regulations related to the termination of parental rights and the 1998 federal Adoption and Safe Families Act, the law that requires states move children into permanent homes more rapidly rather than allowing them to remain indefinitely in the foster care system.

The panel is getting off to a good start, said Tom Emberton Jr., commissioner of the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS), the office that oversees public adoptions.

Emberton said his staff is ready for the panel’s constructive evaluation.

“We look forward to working with this group to achieve good outcomes for children,” he said. “We are asking for an honest assessment of our practices.”

Birdwhistell said once the panel is familiar with the state’s current practices, the panel will invite other interested parties such as judges and family members, to speak.

“We will be hearing from family members and judges as the group’s work continues,” he said. “We will bring many more people to the table. We must hear from those with all viewpoints and from all areas of the state.”

The group plans to meet monthly, at least through the end of the year, and is working toward possible proposed legislation in the 2007 legislative session.

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