Our View: Proposed law about ways to protect babies

proposed law would label drug-dependent babies born in Kentucky as “abused or neglected.”

According to a Feb. 23 Associated Press article, the change would require officials with state agencies to investigate and begin the process of terminating parental rights.

Mothers who are enrolled and complying with a drug treatment program would be exempt from the proposed law. And the designation would be that the state begin the process of terminating parental rights within 60 days of birth.

The bill is sponsored by Republican Rep. David Meade.

While it is important to keep families connected and for agencies to work alongside parents to correct issues, like substance abuse problems, in order to reunite families, nothing is more important than the safety and health of Kentucky’s children.

That is why, although this law should be considered carefully, it is a step in the right direction.

This measure is part of larger attempt to fix some of the issues in Kentucky’s foster care system.

The most recent federal data reveals that as many as 22,000 babies were born drug-dependent in 2012. As the opioid crisis has heightened, those numbers likely have also.

Kentucky has more than 8,000 children in foster care. A federal review of Kentucky’s child-welfare system found the state didn’t meet government standards, including ones requiring that “children are, first and foremost, protected from abuse and neglect.”

This bill would address that concern.

Babies are falling victim to the state’s opioid crisis and the effects can last a lifetime.

Newborn babies who are born with drug-dependence suffer through withdrawals. They shake. They sweat. They vomit. They stiffen their bodies. They don’t sleep well. They cry inconsolably. Who hasn’t seen the heartbreaking footage of babies shaking violently as they experience these symptoms?

That is enough to reinforce the need for some sort of policy to protect children from further damaging effects of being born into a substance abuse problem.