By Keith Inman
Everyone likes to be ranked number one – especially here in Kentucky with our prized horses, bourbon, and basketball. But this? This is not a number one ranking Kentuckians should be proud of: Kentucky has the highest rate of child victims of abuse and is double the national rate.
Since 1923, Kosair Charities has helped children reach their potential while overcoming their obstacles. Now in our 96th year, we have worked to be nimble to whatever the most pressing needs are for both the kids and families in our state. That is why in response to these unacceptable instances of child abuse, the Face It ® Movement was formed with a bold goal of ending child abuse in Kentucky by our 100th birthday.
Over the last five years, we have convened over 70 partner organizations across Kentucky who work to promote best practices in abuse prevention and intervention, engage the community in prevention and reporting, and advocate for policy change on the state and local level.
The key message is simple: parenting is tough, and keeping kids safe is up to all of us.
I understand that as a father of two boys. I also understand that parents and caregivers across this great Commonwealth are doing the best they can to raise our next generation of Kentuckians.
Kids need strong families to thrive, and families need supportive communities to lean on during those challenging times that are bound to come. We all play a role in keeping the children in our communities safe, healthy, and hopeful.
As recent data shows, the majority of maltreatment cases in Kentucky were related to neglect. Kentucky is experiencing an epidemic of substance abuse, which stresses families and puts kids at risk. Substance abuse, untreated mental health issues, financial instability, and lack of knowledge about what to expect from a child’s abilities or behaviors can exacerbate the challenges parents and caregivers face.
Our community must come together to enable parents and caregivers to overcome those challenges and care for their children in a safe and stable way. Everyone plays a role:
- Parents can be empowered to ask trusted friends and family for help when they need it.
- Neighbors can offer to help a parent or caregiver who seems overwhelmed or frustrated by lending an ear, offering to babysit, or cooking a meal.
- Pediatricians and other professionals can share information and tools on age-appropriate expectations because caring for a 6-month-old, 2-year-old, 7-year-old, or 16-year-old all look different.
- Faith groups can support families in need and utilize Blue Sunday, April 28, as a day to promote the needs of children who have experienced abuse and those who work to protect them.
- Coaches, teachers, and other professionals can report when they suspect a child is being abused or neglected.
- Schools, child care centers, and afterschool programs can ensure their staff are safe and trained on abuse prevention and recognition.
- Youth can be empowered to speak up when they know something isn’t right.
- State and local leaders can prioritize policies that help keep kids safe and strengthen families.
As Rachael Denhollander, an advocate and courageous survivor who spoke out against her abuser Larry Nassar, shared at a recent Face It Luncheon, there are names and faces behind every piece of legislation and it is a privilege and responsibility to protect the children in our community. Thankfully, Kentucky state leaders have a track record of stepping up to support policies to protect kids.
No child deserves to experience harm. It is going to take a strong, supportive community and stable families to help kids grow up safe and healthy. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Kosair Charities Face It Movement recognizes that it will take every single one of us to make that a reality.
What actions will you take this month and every month beyond April to help build strong families and thriving kids?
Learn more at faceitabuse.org.
Keith Inman is president of Kosair Charities.
The Face It® Movement launched in 2013 as an initiative led by Kosair Charities® in response to the number of child abuse deaths in the Commonwealth. Face It focuses on a three-pronged approach to addressing child abuse and neglect: promote best practices in child abuse prevention and intervention, build awareness and engage the community, and advocate for effective policies to improve the child welfare system.