Kentucky has second highest child abuse rate in U.S.

Deaths also up but better than national average

The number of Kentucky children who died from abuse, as well as overall cases of abuse, is on the rise.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau “Child Maltreatment 2015” report — released in 2017 — shows a jump in child abuse cases in both Kentucky and Indiana. The commonwealth had just under 19,000 victims (18,000 in the 2014 report), or about 19 out of every 1,000 children, while the Hoosier state reported more than 26,000 cases (23,000 in the 2014 report), or 17 out of every 1,000 kids. Kentucky’s rate is more than double the national average.

“We’re hoping the significant increase in cases is the result of more people spotting and reporting abuse, which means we’re potentially preventing even more deaths and getting children and families the help they need,” said Erin Frazier, M.D., chair of the Partnership to Eliminate Child Abuse, which is led by Norton Children’s Hospital.

The study also shows 16 Kentucky kids died as the result of abuse, compared with 15 fatalities the previous year. Indiana reported 34 fatalities, which is 15 fewer than the year before.

Nationally, child abuse cases and deaths are on the rise. Here’s how both states stack up to the rest of the country.






(per 1,000)





(per 100,000)

Kentucky 18,897 18.7 16 1.58
Ranking 11th 2nd 27th 30th
Indiana 26,397 16.7 34 2.15
Ranking 9th 4th 15th 22nd
U.S. 683,487 9.2 1,858 2.25

Numbers from “Child Maltreatment 2015” report.

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

“We’ve been doing a lot of education throughout Kentucky and Indiana to try to reduce the number of children dying from abuse,” Dr. Frazier said. “Still, it’s apparent that we have plenty more work to do.”

“We all can do our part to keep kids safe and put an end to abuse, which is 100 percent preventable, by staying in control, being smart in choosing a child’s caregiver, knowing how to get support and identifying the signs before it’s too late,” said Kelly L. Dauk, M.D., chair of the Norton Children’s Hospital Child Abuse Task Force and pediatrician with University of Louisville Physicians.

In recognition of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, here are some ways you can help:

  • If you’re a parent and you feel yourself about to lose control, it’s OK to step away. Put your child in a safe place and then listen to your favorite song, take a few deep breaths or call a friend.
  • Keep a list of friends’ and family members’ phone numbers to call for support.
  • If you know a parent who may need a break, offer to babysit so he or she can step away 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.
  • Learn the TEN-4 bruising rule: Children under age 4 should not have bruising on the torso, ears or neck. Infants too young to crawl should never have any bruises. If you see these bruises, there is concern the child may have experienced abuse and you can do something before it’s too late.

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 Childhelp 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.

The “Child Maltreatment 2015” report is available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau.

Child Abuse Prevention
Children’s Protection Specialists

Is It Abuse?

Even if you’re not sure, you are required by law to report suspected abuse or neglect. Anonymous calls are accepted.

Kentucky: Call (877) KYSAFE1 (1-877-597-2331)

Indiana: (800) 800-5556

If a child is in immediate danger, call 911.

Norton Children’s Pediatric Protection Specialists

Child Protection Team

Team members are available 24 /7

(502) 629-6000

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