We’re social workers and we’re not supposed to reveal it,” she said. “If someone else releases it, that’s on them.

July 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

State Child Protective Services officials had been investigating possible abuse of 2-year-old Nathaniel Jones when he was killed in March 2009.

But the state’s involvement with the family prior to the boy’s death had been kept from the public until the detail came out in Franklin Circuit Court Tuesday as state officials argued they should be able to withhold information about the death or near-death of child abuse victims.

Information about the allegation that brought Nathaniel to the state’s attention remains secret, as well as the details of his death. The state has said it needs to keep the file confidential because of pending murder and criminal abuse charges against Nathaniel’s mother, Tiea Jones, and her boyfriend, Brian Gallagher in Rowan County.

Angela Estep, a social worker with the Department of Community Based Services, testified that the file should also be kept confidential to spare Nathaniel’s father details of his son’s death.

“There are a lot of things that the father doesn’t know,” Estep testified, even if he can find some of them in news reports of Nathaniel’s death.

“We’re social workers and we’re not supposed to reveal it,” she said. “If someone else releases it, that’s on them. But I don’t think it’s the Cabinet’s job to release it.”

Estep and several other social workers from across the state testified before Judge Phillip Shepherd to explain why they believe information should remain confidential in the files of children who died or were seriously injured by abuse or neglect.

The social workers, at times emotional, testified in the second day of a hearing that pits the desire of Cabinet officials to keep abuse details private against the the state’s two largest newspapers. The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader argue disclosure will make it possible to fix any problems in the system and allow the public to evaluate the effectiveness of efforts to protect children.

The newspapers requested records on child deaths and near-deaths more than three years ago. The Cabinet has fought the release, but began releasing records — with details blacked out — last year.

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Reporter Jessie Halladay can be reached at (502) 582-4081 or on Twitter at CJ_JHalladay.

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