Masten Childers II
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).
Assistant Attorney General