April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Unfortunately for Kentucky children, reports of abuse and neglect have increased dramatically in recent years, in part because of rampant drug abuse. These numbers illustrate the problem.
The number of substantiated child abuse and neglect findings in Kentucky has steadily risen from 9,934 in fiscal 2012 to 15,378 in fiscal 2016, an increase of 55 percent, according to the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services.
At least this many Kentucky children died or nearly died from mistreatment in the same five-year period.
The vast majority of Kentucky children who are killed or nearly killed by abusers are under the age of 5.
Nearly half of Kentucky’s 44 child abuse deaths in fiscal 2015 were “potentially preventable” by authorities, according to the Kentucky Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel.
A majority of children who die or nearly die from abuse and neglect in Kentucky do so despite the presence of state social workers in their lives. A 2016 review of 116 such cases found that 59 percent had previous involvement with Community Based Services. Among the cases with state involvement, there was an average of 4.25 previous contacts, the report said.
The state’s court system proved no more effective at preventing tragedy. Fifty-seven percent of the abuse cases reviewed in 2016 had a history that could be tracked either through criminal proceedings or behind closed doors in dependency, abuse and neglect hearings. Each of those cases averaged 6.2 court contacts before the child fatality or near-fatality occurred.
There are more than 8,000 children in Kentucky’s foster care system. About 1,200 are available for adoption.
All Kentuckians are required by law to report suspected child abuse and neglect to local police or state child protection officials by calling 1-877-KYSAFE1 (1-877-597-2331). To learn more about what you can do to help stop child abuse, visit Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky.