Kentucky has highest child abuse rate in the U.S.; caregivers can help

Kentucky has the highest child abuse rate in the United States, according to federal data released in 2019 that shine a light on the issue and ways caregivers can curb abuse. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

In 2017, Kentucky reported 22,410 child abuse victims, equating to about 22 out of every 1,000 children, which is more than double the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Children’s Bureau Child Maltreatment 2017 report. The state’s number has increased 27 percent since 2013.

Nationally, 78 percent of child abuse perpetrators were parents, according to the report.

“Many factors go into child abuse, but it’s always 100 percent preventable,” said Kelly L. Dauk, M.D., pediatrician with UofL Physicians - Pediatric Hospital Medicine. “There are many resources available for parents, caregivers, babysitters and bystanders to keep children out of these dangerous situations.”

According to Face It, a movement to end child abuse, there are simple ways parents and caregivers can make a lifesaving difference:

  • Crying is normal. If you feel frustrated with your child, it’s OK to leave the baby in a crib or safe place while you take some deep breaths and calm down.
  • Hitting and yelling don’t work and are shown to be harmful. Scolding, if used frequently, can reinforce negative behavior and cause attention-seeking.
  • Potty training takes patience. Be patient and understanding with your child. Research shows physical punishment and shaming are not effective ways to help your child learn to use the potty. Instead, praise your child when she or he is successful. On average, potty training is an 18-month process.
  • Make sure your child knows the difference between “okay” and “not okay” touches.

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In Kentucky, to report suspected child abuse call 1-877-KYSAFE1 (597-2331). The National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-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.