Ky.: Social Worker Safety Bill Enacted

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed into law a measure intended to boost safety for the state's social services workers.

Senate Bill 59 – known as the Boni Frederick Memorial Bill – was named in honor of Boni Frederick, a social services aide who was fatally beaten and stabbed while she was in the line of duty.

The bill will provide $3.5 million to fund security improvements at state child welfare offices. Another $2.5 million will be used to hire additional front-line staff.

The law calls for the implementation of several safety elements, including giving staff devices enabled with “panic buttons” and global positioning system capabilities. It also has an emergency clause, meaning it takes effect immediately.

“The new law is a good start for the changes we need to bolster the security of the child protection system,” Fletcher said. “The measures I signed into law today will protect both social services staff and the families – particularly the children – they serve.”

The original bill, which was backed by Fletcher's administration, had called for about $20 million during the next 16 months to add more than 300 social services staffers, including 225 social workers

Tighter Security, 24-Hour Access to Criminal Records

Kentucky lawmakers supported the new law.

“One of the best aspects of this law is that social services workers will see a difference almost immediately,” said Sen. Charlie Borders, R-Russell. “Their office security will be tightened, and with faster access to criminal records of families being served, they will know sooner when something is amiss.”

Under the new law, local offices of the Department of Community-Based Services will receive security enhancements such as buzzer-entry systems that restrict access to staff work areas from front lobbies. Staff also will have 24-hour access to criminal records.

“Passage of the Boni Bill is just the beginning of a safety net for our social workers and we plan to do more in the near future,” said Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville.

Mark Birdwhistell, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services – where Frederick worked – said he and his staff welcome the long-sought legislation.

“From the tragedy of Ms. Frederick’s death has emerged much-needed support for improving the safety of our social services staff, as well as an awareness of the valuable work they perform each and every day,” Birdwhistell said.

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