OAG 93-84


December 17, 1993


Masten Childers II

Deputy Secretary

General Counsel

Cabinet for Human Resources

Frankfort, KY 40621-0001

Dear Mr. Childers:

As Deputy Secretary and General Counsel for the Cabinet for Human Resources you have requested an Attorney General's Opinion regarding whether the language in KRS 600.020(1) exempts children who do not receive necessary medical treatment due to their parents' religious beliefs from the mandatory reporting requirements of KRS 620.030. Additionally, you question whether this religious exception affects the provisions of KRS 620.050(3) which require the Cabinet to initiate a prompt investigation of such reports and offer protective services toward safeguarding the welfare of the child.

KRS 600.020(1) contains the definition for an "abused or neglected" child and also includes the following religious exception:

A parent or other person exercising custodial control or supervision of the child legitimately practicing his religious beliefs shall not be considered a negligent parent solely because he fails to provide specified medical treatment for a child for that reason alone. This exception shall not preclude a court from ordering necessary medical services for a child[.]

KRS 620.030(1) is a mandatory reporting requirement for allegations of dependency, neglect or abuse and provides:

Any person who knows or has reasonable cause to believe that a child is dependent, neglected or abused shall immediately cause an oral or written report to be made to a local law enforcement agency or the Kentucky state police; the cabinet or its designated representative; the commonwealth's attorney or the county attorney; by telephone or otherwise.

KRS 620.050(3) mandates that the Cabinet investigate reports of an abused, neglected or abused child and states:

Upon receipt of a report of an abused, neglected or dependent child pursuant to this chapter, the cabinet as the designated agency or its delegated representative shall initiate a prompt investigation, take necessary action and shall offer protective services toward safeguarding the welfare of the child.

In your letter of October 25, 1993, you explained that the Cabinet takes the position that the language in KRS 600.020(1) does not preclude a child, whose parents failed to provide necessary medical care due to their religious beliefs, from being considered an abused or neglected child. It merely means that the parents will not be considered negligent parents and does not preclude the Cabinet from seeking appropriate judicial intervention.

It is the Opinion of the Attorney General that the cabinet is correctly interpreting the statutes in question. The legislature provided that the purpose behind the dependency, neglect and abuse act is to protect the physical and mental well-being of children. KRS 620.010. Therefore, in interpreting the specific statutory sections under this act, the paramount concern is the health and welfare of the child. The mandatory reporting requirements of KRS 620.030(1) and the mandatory investigation requirements of KRS 620.050(3) must be followed for the benefit of the child notwithstanding any parental consequences.

The most important component in these medical care cases is to provide the most appropriate medical care for the child. The General Assembly has made this perfectly clear in KRS 600.020(1) which specifies that the parental religious exception shall not preclude a court from ordering necessary medical services for a child. It would be almost impossible for a court to order appropriate medical care for a child if the mandatory reporting and investigation requirements were ignored.

In conclusion, a child who does not receive necessary medical care due to his parents' religious belief may be considered an abused or neglected child. KRS 600.020(1). Accordingly, the reporting requirements of KRS 620.030(1) and the investigation requirements of KRS 620.050(3) are mandatory and must be followed in cases involving the religious exception contained in KRS 600.020(1).

Sincerely yours,

CHRIS GORMAN

ATTORNEY GENERAL



Lynne Schroering

Assistant Attorney General

(502) 564-7600

VLS:v/1522