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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- There were heated words and emotional testimony during a legislative committee hearing Wednesday where lawmakers and parents accused a state commissioner, child protective services and its workers of failing to protect children from abuse.
As chair of the standing committee of health and welfare, an emotional Sen. Julie Denton, R - Louisville, called the meeting to order, taking swipes at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services for stonewalling parents seeking information and slowing down resolving cases where children are being abused.
"I wanted to hear today from families whose lives are being torn apart not for a day and not for a week, but for years. And we have cabinet here worried about due process and that's not acceptable," said Denton, as she wiped away tears.
Denton said she believes some children are "falling through the cracks" because the state's social workers are part of a bogged down bureaucracy. She believes some children aren't being fully protected.
"I've never done anything like this so I'm nervous. Bare with me," said Toni.
In a committee room normally reserved for hammering out laws, a mother, Toni (her last name withheld) hammered away at Kentucky's child protective services.
"There were no home visits during this investigation and I would call for days and never get an answer or reply."
Toni, a divorced mother of two, claims her five-year old son has been sexually abused since the age of three. She's taken him to see multiple therapists.
"He talked to (the therapist) about daddy and uncle tickling his pee-pee," Toni told the committee.
CPS and state police investigated, but a grand jury chose not to indict anyone. Toni told WDRB News she believes it's because there was a lack of physical evidence and that her son's age played a role in his credibility.
Under a custody agreement, Toni says her son is still required to visit family members where the alleged abuse took place.
"It troubles me that we think no one believes him or nobody cares," Toni said during an interview with WDRB News.
The state commissioner admits social workers don't always make the right decisions. Commissioner Teresa Wade asked lawmakers for help, but that's when the meeting turned heated.
"At this point, I believe we need additional staff," said James.
Denton quickly jumped in: "Let's not use that as a crutch just to feed a line of bull to people because the cameras are rolling and that we're going to buy this crap. we all need money but that's not what the problem is."
Committee members raised concerns that communication is lacking and that cases are slow to be resolved.
"What I don't hear is a reasonable answer for whose accountable? What can these people do?" said Rep. Ben Waide, R - Madisonville.
The commissioner says CPS is working to improve in all areas, including assessments and how case workers communicate with each other and parent and guardians.
"Will we always make a good decision all the time. What I can tell you is that we don't have a crystal ball and the circumstances we are dealing with are very difficult," said James.
Toni says her son's case was investigated three times by CPS and state police. In each instance, she was told there was a lack of evidence. She claims the case involving her son was closed last month.
Commissioner James told the committee the case would be investigated again, but only if no allegations of abuse surfaced.