FRANKFORT, Ky. — A leading lawmaker called Monday for the resignation of Health and Family Services Secretary Janie Miller.

Republican Sen. Julie Denton of Louisville, co-chair of the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare, cited concerns about Miller's oversight of the state agency that supervises child welfare programs.

Miller's agency has come under increasing criticism for its handling of child abuse cases, some of which have ended in deaths that lawmakers think may have been preventable. In one case, public records suggest social workers may have ignored abuse reports involving a 9-year-old Kentucky girl who was later beaten to death, prompting a legislative review of the state's child-welfare system.

"The hierarchy of this cabinet needs to go," Denton said during a hearing Monday afternoon that Miller didn't attend.

Gov. Steve Beshear rejected Denton's call.

"Janie Miller has my full confidence as secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services," Beshear said. "She continues to work to improve the child protection system while meeting the legal standards provided by federal and state government, and she has successfully managed an enormous task in transitioning half a million Kentuckians to managed care this year."

"I am very disappointed that Sen. Denton has resorted to a personal attack rather than deal with these very difficult issues," Miller said in a statement.

Miller appointed an acting commissioner to lead the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services, which handles child welfare cases. Teresa James, who has been deputy commissioner of the agency since 2008, replaces Pat Wilson, who resigned effective Monday.

Miller said James has 25 years of clinical social work experience, including more than 17 years working with severely abused and neglected children and their families and four years working with vulnerable adults.

"Teresa is a proud and passionate social worker who has a wide range of experiences in her field," Miller said in a statement. "She has worked in pediatric medical settings with the issues of abuse and neglect and has dealt with issues surrounding children with chronic illness and severe health needs."