LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Social workers would feel safer doing their jobs if visits between parents and children removed from their homes took place at neutral locations, according to a statewide survey.
The survey, conducted online earlier this month, was in response to the Oct. 16 killing of social worker Boni Frederick when she took a baby to his mother's western Kentucky home for a scheduled visit. About 2,700 of the state's 4,550 social-service workers completed the survey.
Respondents recommended giving social workers emergency communications equipment such as two-way radios, which could be crucial in rural areas where cell phone service is spotty. The state already has given every social worker a cell phone.
The state also has asked Kentucky State Police to review the security of local offices where meetings are held between families and workers and some supervised visits are held. Some offices will need to be remodeled or relocated, said Tom Emberton Jr., an undersecretary in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Emberton said the cabinet will ask lawmakers for additional money for other safety priorities, such as hiring more social workers.
State Rep. Jimmie Lee, chairman of the human services budget subcommittee, said a possibility would be opening 30 secure visitation centers across the state at a cost of about $2 million. There currently are a few such sites, but only in Louisville and Lexington.
As many as 300 more social workers may be added to handle the increasing caseload of abused or neglected children, Lee said.
State Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, a Hazard Democrat, is working with other lawmakers to draft a bill on social-worker safety for consideration during the upcoming legislative session.
Frederick's daughter, Sandy Travis, said her mother had concerns before her death about visiting certain homes alone.
A neutral location for supervised visits is "the No. 1 thing with me," said Travis, who noted that her mother had a cell phone but wasn't able to call for help before she was severely beaten.
Authorities said the baby's mother and her boyfriend killed Frederick at the Henderson home, stole her car and kidnapped the infant. He was found safe and returned to foster care after a three-day manhunt. Renee Terrell, 33, and Christopher Luttrell, 23, have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, kidnapping, robbery and theft.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved