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.
In 2014 I was laid off from my job in rural Eastern Kentucky and relocated to Fayette County. Before relocating, I got accepted to UK planned to live in student housing. However, an old ( much forgotten) $300 fee from KCTCS during my divorce in 2001 prevented all that plan. Although, we were already in Lexington uhaul full, expecting to move into student housing when I became aware of the bill. Suddenly we were homeless! Daily for weeks I was told by agencies I sought assistance from that we were ineligible for assistance due to the fact I was not a veteran, addict, or felon.
Within 90 days of our arriving in Lexington, we were staying at a homeless shelter and without any involvement between us and DCBS my daughter was taken into foster care directly from her school, WITHOUT my being notified of anything and her being told by DCBS at the school she was being taken to meet up with me. Her and I “jumped” through all of DCBS hoops for nearly 18 months and stated case goal was always reunification. But in the blink of eye everything changed! The FP lied to the court, and without any investigation of FP statement or evidentiary hearing as I requested of the judge. The judge instead immediately without question or hesitation ordered the case switched to I-TPR and issued an immediate no contact order between my daughter and I. My daughter and I had just spent the weekend unsupervised in our apartment as we had done for many prior weekends and we were expecting to be permanently reunited in only a few days. Instead we did not see each other again until 2020. Now I realize to the average by stander the assumption would be made that whatever the FP said must have been so horrible that the judge had no other course of action except to violate due process in such a manner. However, I know from years of following your organization that it is not one of average by standers, especially when it come to awareness of the substantial corruption and civil right violations that occur daily in Kentucky family courts ripping families apart. I believe it is worth noting that this same judge has been suspended multiple times from 2016-2019 for just such violations. Yet to my knowledge they are still on the bench and the corruption and unjustified family destruction within Fayette County continues today.
Thankfully my daughter and I reconnected in 2020. Sadly though, this reunion occurred after her being sexually, emotionally and psychologically abused by the state foster(eventual adoptive) father. His wife(self-admitted recovering crack addict) although never required by state to submit to drug tests at anytime in the approval process or after. I was ordered to be tested 4x a week although no where in my background was there ever any documentation of any drug or alcohol misuse or abuse. Fast forward to now 2022, and my beautiful, strong, courageous and amazing daughter is a shell of the outgoing, adventurous and most of all innocent 11 year old she was when the state took her. Instead now she has panic, anxiety, low self-esteem, and terrifyingly at one point during her telling authorities what was happening to her in the care of the state approved FP( eventual adoptive) family she attempted suicide.
Our family has been torn apart in so many ways by DCBS, just because we were poor. I am excited to see this bill requiring much overdue and needed clarification between actual neglect and abuse stemming from intentional disregard by parents(caregiver) for their child in contrast to an unfortunate not abusive neglectful case of poverty as was the case with my daughter and I. We sure wish this would have been in place in 2014. As a parent thank you for all your organization does to raise awareness and protect children and families. I finally began college in 2020, and I am a rising Junior(3.5) working my way to law school and my daughter is also a rising junior (AP) . Hopefully in 2027 when I pass the bar, I will be in a position to truly fight for others in poverty at the mercy of DCBS. Keep up the great work!
[…] April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Kentucky at one-point used to be the number one state for child victimization. As of February 2022, they are no longer and now have the rank of the 5th highest rate for child maltreatment, according to Kentucky Youth Advocates. […]
[…] several years, Kentucky was No. 1 in child abuse and neglect. Right now, we’re ranked No. 5. 1 We place many of these children with relatives or with close family friends in what is […]