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Newsroom Legislation to Increase Transparency in Child Deaths Introduced

Topeka - As part of an ongoing effort to increase transparency and accountability, Governor Jeff Colyer, M.D. and Secretary Meier-Hummel, today, announced new legislation aimed at providing the public greater information following deaths of Kansas children, that involve allegations of abuse or neglect. 

Under House Bill 2728, which adds language to K.S.A 38-2212 (Child in Need of Care code), upon request, in the event that child abuse or neglect results in a child fatality, the secretary shall release the following information, as allowed by applicable law:

  • The age and sex of the child;
  • The date of the fatality;
  • A summary related to the department’s processes and procedures of any previous reports of abuse or neglect received by the secretary involving the child and the findings of any said reports; and
  • Any department-recommended services provided for the child.

“We have seen far too many children killed at the hands of their caregivers, acts that can be described as nothing short of evil,” Governor Colyer said. “The public often asks how something like this can happen, and although this legislation may not fully answer that, it will help Kansans learn about steps that may or may not have been taken to save a child’s life. This bill is another important step in increasing transparency and public trust in state government.”

Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel says the measure, which was introduced Thursday, Feb 8th, will demonstrate the agency’s work and involvement with families. 

“I feel strongly this new legislation will allow us to share more information, thus answering many questions the public has, in a timely manner when these unfortunate tragedies occur,” Secretary Meier-Hummel said. “The agencies ultimate goal is to keep Kansas children safe and when tragedy occurs the public deserves to know what our involvement with a family has been. This bill balances answering questions and holding the agency accountable with a family’s right to privacy.” 

Under the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), states must generally preserve confidentiality of child abuse and neglect records and not allow disclosure to the public, as one requirement to receiving federal funding. The disclosure of the information proposed in HB 2728 is allowed under CAPTA, as it applies only in instances of a child fatality resulting from abuse or neglect. The agency will continue to utilize the seven-day provision, within the Child in Need of Care code, which requires proper notice to affected individuals before the agency is authorized to share the social file (the agency’s full file, with appropriate redaction).​