By Shontelle Davis, MSSW intern at Kentucky Youth Advocates
According to findings within the latest US Department of Health and Human Services annual Child Maltreatment Report, Kentucky no longer has the highest child victimization rate in the nation. Among all 50 states, Kentucky now has the 5th highest rate of child maltreatment as opposed to its number 1 spot in 2019.
With Senate Bill 8 being voted out of the Kentucky Senate and the release of the annual report on child maltreatment, Kentucky is moving in the right direction towards decreasing rates of child abuse and neglect.
Between Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2016 to 2020, the number of child victims decreased 7.9% nationally and 16.3% in Kentucky. This means that Kentucky is improving at a rate that is faster than the nation as a whole. While we celebrate this as a win for Kentucky children and their families, it is important to identify risk factors and support policies and programs that will continue Kentucky’s progress towards protecting its children.
SB 8, which is supported by the Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children and the Face It Movement, is set to do just that. One of the key implementations of SB 8 focuses on targeting preventative measures associated with child maltreatment. These implications include creating a uniform definition of child abuse and neglect, specifically by helping clarify neglect versus poverty by defining neglect as a parent or guardian not providing a child adequate care, supervision, and basic needs when financially able to do so. It also establishes new membership of the State Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board, ensures victims of child maltreatment have access to critical medical examinations, broadens the definition of fictive kin, expands opportunities for youth aging out of foster care, and more.
While SB 8 includes several provisions that will greatly impact Kentucky children, it can be strengthened by expanding Medicaid reimbursement eligibility for qualified medical providers. Specifically, this legislation should support providers who perform forensic services for children who’ve experienced maltreatment in Emergency Departments and specialty clinics, like Pediatric Forensic Medicine clinics at the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville.
When focusing on preventative measures it is important to take into consideration risk factors that may cause Kentucky children to be at a greater risk of harm. According to the annual Maltreatment Report, risk factors are defined as characteristics of a child or caregiver that could increase the likelihood of child maltreatment. Some of the risk factors mentioned in the report are outlined below:
- In Kentucky in Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2020, as well as in the nation, children under the age of 1 experience maltreatment at a higher rate compared to children in other age groups.
- Domestic violence (52.4%) , drug abuse (50%) and issues related to poverty served as the most salient caregiver risk factors among child victims of abuse/neglect.
- Neglect was the highest maltreatment type at 87% followed by physical abuse at 7%, sexual abuse at 4% and medical neglect at 2%.
- Kentucky experienced a child fatality rate due to abuse/neglect of 0.90 per 100,000 children compared to the national rate of 2.38, thus nationally children are dying of abuse/neglect at a rate more than 2.5 times higher than Kentucky.
Along with identifying risk factors and implementing preventative measures, it is also important to acknowledge the policies and programs that children may need after experiencing abuse and neglect. Legislation such as Senate Bill 97, sponsored by Senator Danny Carroll and also supported by the Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children and the Face It Movement, will strengthen efforts following a child fatality or near fatality, including requiring coroners to immediately notify law enforcement, the Department of Community Based Services, and the local health department following the death of a child. This measure will also strengthen the External Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Panel, which reviews cases and makes recommendations to relevant state agencies to prevent these horrific outcomes from happening again.
Support Kentucky’s efforts to continue decreasing the rate of child abuse and neglect by advocating for your state Representative to support SB 8 and SB 97 as the measures move through the Kentucky House.
Track SB 8 and SB 97, along with other bills that are good for kids on our Kentucky General Assembly Bill Tracker. You can also reach out to your state legislators to ensure their support for these bills.