Kentucky child abuse rate is second highest; Indiana fatalities double

Simple ways parents and bystanders can make a lifesaving difference in child abuse prevention

Kentucky and Indiana continue to see a rise in child abuse.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau child abuse report released this year shows a jump in both states. Kentucky reported 20,000 victims — a nearly 6 percent increase representing about 20 out of every 1,000 children. Indiana reported 28,500 cases. That’s an 8 percent increase and represents 18 out of every 1,000 kids. This year’s report uses data from 2016.

Both rates are double the national average.

The study also shows 15 Kentucky kids died as the result of abuse, which is one less than the previous year. Indiana, on the other hand, reported a spike, with 70 deaths in 2016. That’s compared with 34 the year before.

“This is troubling news,” said Erin Frazier, M.D., chair of the Partnership to Eliminate Child Abuse, which is led by Norton Children’s Hospital. “We’re hoping the increase in cases means more people are recognizing the signs of abuse. But the fact that more children are dying from abuse means we, as a society, have a lot of work to do.”

How both states compare to the rest of the country
2016 abuse cases 2016 abuse rate (per 1,000) 2016 deaths 2016 death rate

(per 100,000)

Kentucky 20,010 19.8 15 1.48
Ranking 11th 2nd 29th 36th
Indiana 28,430 18 70 4.44
Ranking 7th 3rd 7th 4th
U.S. 671,487 9.1 1,750 2.36


Numbers from “Child Maltreatment 2016” report.

Rankings are from 1 (worst) to 52 (best) and include Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.  

“There are many factors that go into child abuse,” Dr. Frazier said. “Just like the opioid epidemic, abuse happens among all ages, races and income levels.”

“Abuse is 100 percent preventable,” said Kelly Dauk, M.D., chair of the Norton Children’s Hospital Child Abuse Task Force and pediatrician with University of Louisville Physicians. “We need to continue to educate how to not only identify abuse but also how to prevent a child from being put in potentially dangerous situations.”

Child abuse prevention: What you can do

In recognition of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, here are some simple ways parents and bystanders can make a life-saving difference:

  • If you feel yourself about to lose control with a child, it’s OK to step away. Listen to your favorite song, take a few deep breaths or call a friend.
  • Keep a list of friend and family member phone numbers to call for support.
  • Learn the TEN-4 bruising rule: Children under age 4 should not have bruising on the torso, ears or neck. Infants that are not mobile rarely have any bruises.
  • If you know a parent who may be feeling stressed, offer to babysit so he or she can have a break for an hour or two.
  • Offer to run an errand for a neighbor with small children who has difficulty getting out of the house. A small gesture like that can greatly reduce stress for the parent.
  • If you see someone about to raise a hand to a child, you can help the situation. Even saying something like, “I remember when my child acted like that,” can break the tension and protect the child.

More ideas are available at

In Kentucky, the number to call to report suspected child abuse is (877) KY-SAFE1 (597-2331). In Indiana, call (800) 800-5556. The National Child Abuse Hotline, (800) 4-A-CHILD (422-4453), offers professional crisis counselors who can provide intervention, information and referrals to emergency, social service and support resources. Calls are confidential.