A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Instances of child abuse have declined in Kentucky, but rate remains 60% higher than national average

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Kentucky saw a 48% reduction in child victims of maltreatment from 2018 to 2022, according to the latest federal data. However, child abuse and neglect in the Commonwealth remains around 60% higher than the national rate.

Shannon Moody, chief policy and strategy officer with Kentucky Youth Advocates, said identifying risk factors around substance abuse, untreated mental health issues and domestic violence can all help reduce child abuse.

Kentucky now ranks 14th in the nation in child victims of maltreatment, according to the latest Child Maltreatment report from the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Click for full report)

“Another risk factor that was identified in this report was inadequate housing. And we know that in Kentucky, especially if we have families who are struggling to maintain housing, that can be a very stressful environment for the entire family and can result in unsafe situations for kids,” she said.

Kentucky law requires adults to report suspected cases of abuse. If you are concerned about the safety of a child, call the state’s child abuse and neglect hotline at 877-KY-SAFE-1, or 911 in an emergency.

Dr. Melissa Currie, a University of Louisville child abuse pediatrician, said drugs lying around the home and accidentally ingested continue to be a major issue compromising child safety.

“We are seeing just an incredible increase in the number of cases of children ending up in the hospital with ingestions of illicit substances. And that includes legal cannabinoids, but it also includes illicit drugs,” she said.

Chris Williams, senior vice president of communications with the nonprofit Kosair for Kids, said more than a decade ago, eight organizations across the state came together with the goal of eliminating child abuse in all 120 Kentucky counties.

“We’re making a difference. But we have got to not pull our foot off the accelerator. We’ve got to continue to speed forward and eradicate child abuse and neglect once and for all,” Williams said.

Advocates say policies that would help support victims and reduce child-abuse cases include increased investments for foster care, ensuring students have a safe environment to learn at school, and allowing health-care providers to complete a child abuse and neglect registry check for current or prospective employees.

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