Story by: Erica Coghill on April 7, 2021
For the third year in a row, Kentucky has the highest child abuse rate in the country.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Children’s Bureau “Child Maltreatment 2019” report — released this year — shows Kentucky had more than 20,000 abuse cases, meaning about 20 out of every 1,000 children in the commonwealth experienced some type of abuse. By comparison, the second-highest state (West Virginia) had a rate of 18.7 per 1,000 kids. The U.S. average is 8.9.
Indiana saw the opposite trend. The Hoosier state’s abuse rate improved from 16.4 to 14.7. However, Indiana had the nation’s highest death rate. In Indiana, 116 children died from child abuse in 2019.
Here’s how both states compared with the country overall:
Numbers from “Child Maltreatment 2019” report
Rankings are from 1 (worst) to 52 (best) and include Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
Experts are concerned the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a spike in child abuse numbers for 2020. The pandemic left families faced with financial, emotional and other stresses — combined with spending long periods of time isolated at home with a lack of structure and support. These stressors can lead to potentially dangerous situations.
“Research has found that when families are stressed, children are at an increased risk of being abused,” said Kelly L. Dauk, M.D., chair, Norton Children’s Hospital Child Abuse Task Force and pediatrician with Norton Children’s Inpatient Care, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “Caregivers must take care of themselves physically and emotionally, and ask for help if they are struggling. Maintaining connections with friends, family and others in the community is important. It takes support from the whole community to stop child abuse. We all have a responsibility help those who are struggling and report concerns for child safety and well-being.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips on how to support your family during times of high stress:
In Kentucky, everyone is mandated to report a reasonable suspicion that maltreatment has occurred.
Kentucky: (877) KYSAFE1 (1-877-597-2331)
Report online during business hours
Indiana: (800) 800-5556
If a child is in immediate danger, call 911.