With Kentucky’s terrible child abuse statistics, it’s more vital than ever that we be vigilant, involved

There are many areas in which Kentucky seeks to be in first when compared with other states.

Child abuse and neglect is not one of them. But unfortunately, that’s where we stand, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Children’s Bureau’s “Child Maltreatment 2019” report.

According to the report, Kentucky had more than 20,000 abuse and neglect cases in 2019. That equated to about 20 out of every 1,000 children in the state who experienced some type of child maltreatment. In comparison, West Virginia was named the second-highest state with a rate of 18.7 per 1,000 kids, while the U.S. average is 8.9.

That’s staggering and heart-wrenching, not to mention unacceptable. And that’s the measurement of a “normal” year — 2019. It’s expected that, while reporting may be down for 2020 due to schools being closed to in-person instruction and other vital points at which child abuse is typically identified being closed, that child abuse is skyrocketing. However, in this case it’s happening behind closed doors.

According to experts, numerous factors go into the state’s dismal child abuse numbers — poverty, high stress, substance abuse, lack of education and generational issues — among others.

While all of these things can explain the numbers, they can’t excuse them, and it’s vital that, as a community and individuals, we take caution to ensure that not only is child abuse prevented, but that when it happens that authorities are notified so that the process can be interrupted.

At the family level, it’s important that all parents take constant assessment of their situations and how they’re dealing with stress and other factors.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips on how to support your family during times of high stress:

• Engage your children in constructive activities. Bored or frustrated children are more likely to act out.

• Help children with their fears. Kids who are old enough to follow the news may be afraid. You can acknowledge the fear and discuss all the things you are doing to stay healthy, such as washing hands, wearing masks and staying home to avoid germs.

• Know when not to respond. As long as your child isn't doing something dangerous and gets plenty of attention for good behavior, ignoring bad behavior can be an effective way of stopping it.

• Catch them being good. Children need to know when they do something bad — and when they do something good. Notice good behaviors and point them out, praising success and good tries.

• Give them your attention. The most powerful tool for effective discipline is attention, which reinforces good behaviors and discourages others. When parents are trying to work at home, this can be particularly challenging. Clear communication and setting expectations can help, particularly with older children.

If you see child abuse happening or suspect it’s going on — report it.

In Kentucky, the number to call to report suspected child abuse is, (877) KY-SAFE1 (597-2331). The 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. In Kentucky, everyone is mandated to report a reasonable suspicion that maltreatment has occurred.

The Big Sandy Child Advocacy Center — Judi’s Place for Kids — 128 South College Street, Pikeville, and can be reached at, (606) 437-7447. Judi’s Place also has a satellite location in Prestonsburg, which is located at 253 University Drive and can be reached at, (606) 886-8520. For more information about how to get involved with Judi’s Place or how to donate, email, info@judisplace.org, or visit, judisplace.org.

Learn other prevention tips and how to identify abuse at, donthurtchildren.com.

Support organizations like Judi’s Place which are so vital to our efforts to end child abuse, donate to causes which help stem the growing tide of cases and broken lives they leave behind. Report child abuse. Learn more about the issue and what you can do to contribute to ending it.

It’s important that each of us take this challenge seriously and contribute to making our community a safer place for children to grow up in a safe and healthy environment. And there are a lot of lives depending on it.