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Parents Testify About Problems With Child Welfare System

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Some parents who have lost their children to foster care told a panel of investigators that the state moves to quickly to take kids away.

Six women who testified before a Blue Ribbon Panel on Adoption also said that Kentucky's child welfare system is unfair to parents who can't afford lawyers, that social workers don't always follow proper procedures, and that unrealistic demands are made of parents.

"I'm being discriminated against because I'm poor," said Phyllis Richardson, a Lexington parent who testified Thursday before the Blue Ribbon Panel on Adoption. "The law has failed us. The Department for Community Based Services has failed us."

The panel chaired by Cabinet for Health and Family Services Commissioner Mark D. Birdwhistell was wrapping up its review of complaints first levied in January by child advocacy groups that the Cabinet inappropriately removes children from their homes and expedites state adoptions.

Lawyer John Hamlet, who practices in family court in Louisville, noted that parents with no lawyer face a prosecutor, a social worker and a judge, plus lawyers who may have been appointed for the children.

Mary Henderson, of Lexington, said she almost lost her four children to adoption through overzealous social workers and state officials who didn't follow procedures. Her children are back home now, but she said the entire system needs more oversight.


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