Social worker jailed by Ky. judge

The Courts

BULLITT COUNTY, KY -- Faced with conflicting court appearances on the same day in late June, state social worker Aaron Jackson said he followed a supervisor's directive to attend family court in Jefferson County and notify Bullitt County court officials that he'd miss a child-welfare hearing there, reports The Louisville Courier-Journal in its Sunday eidtion,.

So Jackson, 29, a two-year worker with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said he was stunned to wind up in jail a week later — after an angry Bullitt County judge jailed him for 24 hours for contempt of court.

He said he was equally shocked to get no immediate legal help or support from his agency. Supervisors advised of the judge's intentions initially advised Jackson to "turn yourself in," and afterward told him he had to use vacation hours to cover his time in jail.

"I felt like I was taking the hit for the cabinet," Jackson said. "It is ridiculous not to support your workers and not stand behind them."

It's the second time in three years that a local judge has jailed a state social worker for contempt of court in a dispute that advocates say is rooted in a lack of resources — and illustrates the strain on a state social-service system that has faced repeated budget cuts amid rising caseloads and not enough workers.

"It's a systemwide problem, and it appears we're just unwilling to do anything about it," said Terry Singer, dean of the Kent School of Social Work at the University of Louisville. "Until someone wakes up and realizes we have to invest in this, I just don't know what to say."

Bullitt Family Court Judge Elise Givhan Spainhour, who ordered Jackson jailed on July 1, declined to comment through a spokeswoman for the state Administrative Office of the Courts, reports The Louisville Courier-Journal.

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