A new report from the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows Kentucky ranking worst in the nation for child abuse and neglect. The “Child Maltreatment 2017” report reveals that 22,410 children were victims of child abuse in 2017–about 22 out of every 1,000 children.
Child abuse has continued to rise in the Commonwealth, with statistics showing a steady increase in child abuse victims. In 2013, 17,591 Kentucky children suffered child abuse while 18,897 were reported in 2015. 2016 showed 20,010 children were victims, and the most recent data from 2017 revealed that more than 22,000 children were abused across the state.
The current rate of child abuse in Kentucky more than doubles the national average.
Executive Director of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of the Ohio Valley Rosemary Conder spoke about the epidemic at Tuesday night’s city commission meeting, where Conder was given a proclamation for Child Abuse Prevention Month in the City of Owensboro for April 2019.
“Kentucky was just designated as the worst state in abuse and neglect,” Conder said. “I always try to look at that on the positive side, that maybe more people are reporting it, and that we’re trying to intervene more, rather than putting it under a barrel.”
While reading the proclamation, Mayor Tom Watson described child abuse as “one of the United States’s most serious public health problems” and said scientific studies have shown a link between child abuse and neglect and an array of psychological, physical, emotional and behavioral disorders.
Both Watson and Conder said local cases of child abuse and neglect could be acknowledged, possibly even better prevented, by bringing different organizations together to stand up against the issue.
Watson’s proclamation read that partnerships created among government agencies, schools, faith communities, civic organizations, law enforcement agencies and the business community could bring awareness and support toward the issue.
“The collaboration between different organizations is so critical to our community being aware of what abuse and neglect look like for our children,” Conder said. “I think it’s really just having an attitude of being aware and educated, so that we can intervene and prevent these cases.”
Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly also proclaimed April 2019 as Child Abuse Prevention Month for the county at Thursday’s Daviess Fiscal Court meeting. Mattingly read from the proclamation that child abuse and neglect often happens when families are struggling either financially or emotionally, so a support system for these families is vital to lowering the number of local abuse cases.
Kristy Clark, Family Engagement Coordinator with social services for the Green River Area Development District said GRADD would be holding an event at Kentucky Wesleyan College on April 12 from 4 – 7 p.m. that focuses on bringing awareness to child abuse in the local area. Clark said anyone was welcome to attend the event, STAND Against Child Abuse, which will have bounce houses and other activities for children who attend.