Kentucky Has the Highest Rate of Child Abuse in the Country . . . Again
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and, in a couple of weeks, our friends at GRADD will once again be hosting the annual Stand Against Child Abuse. This year's Stand, due to ongoing concerns about COVID-19, will be a drive-thru event at Towne Square Mall. And, for the third year in a row, when the Stand is held, Kentucky will have the highest rate of child abuse in the entire country.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau "Child Maltreatment 2019" report was just released and Kentucky had more than 20,000 reported abuse and child neglect cases in that calendar year. If you break down those statistics based on population, that's 20 cases out of every 1,000 children in the commonwealth. According to the report, we're well above the U.S. average of 8.9 children per every 1,000. That's startling and horrifying.
In fact, earlier today, I hosted the virtual Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce's Rooster Booster Breakfast, which, this month, was sponsored by New Beginnings. If you're not familiar, New Beginnings specifically addresses and serves the victims of sexual abuse/assault and many of those clients are children. As a matter of fact, in 2020, there were 129 child sex abuse cases served by the agency.
And, of course, the more troubling truth is this. For the last twelve months, because of COVID, children in much of the country (and certainly here in this region) have been out of school and at home. For some of those children that means they have been potentially at home with their perpetrator and away from the support team of folks who are able to recognize the signs of abuse and report them. It's quite likely the number 129 is much higher.
This is echoed in a news release from Norton Children's Hospital which indicates that the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic "could lead to a spike in child abuse numbers for 2020." Personally, I think the 2019 numbers were already too high.
If you suspect child abuse, you are asked to call 877-KY-SAFE1 (877- 597-2331). The National Child Abuse Hotline is 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453).