Data on child abuse and neglect cases in each county and the state as a whole for calendar year 2010 has been posted to the KIDS COUNT Data Center. This new data portrays some discouraging trends for vulnerable children in the Commonwealth, but as Kentuckians we can use our ingenuity to implement innovative solutions to prevent harm to children.

Sadly, the number of substantiated child victims of abuse/neglect is on the rise after gradual declines over the past 4 years. Historically, neglect cases continue to rise after an economic recession, even when recovery has begun. The recent economic downturn may have contributed to the new increase in neglect cases in Kentucky. In 2010, 15,338 children in the state were confirmed by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to be victims of child abuse or neglect, with 5 percent of those children having experienced more than one substantiated incident within twelve months. The vast majority of those 15,338 children were victims of neglect, with less than 2,000 victimized by physical abuse, and less than 1,000 victimized by sexual abuse – but even one child suffering from these tragedies is one child too many. We can lower the numbers of children harmed by abuse and neglect by cultivating protective factors in families and communities, reducing risk factors through use of preventive services, knowing what the signs of abuse and neglect are, and being trained on how to report suspected cases.

Placing a child in out-of-home care is sometimes the only safe option to prevent further harm to a child, but the trauma of removal from the home can be minimized by placing the child with a relative they know and trust. While the number of children placed in out-of-home care in 2010 (11,132) was at its lowest in five years, the percent of those children placed in foster homes in 2010 (79 percent) was at its highest in five years. Research has shown that children with one or more placements in foster care are more likely to have lower earnings, become teen parents or become involved with the juvenile justice system.

Given what we know about the traumatic nature of out-of-home placement, as well as the high cost of these placements to the state, child welfare practitioners frequently work to either prevent out-of-home placements (by providing intensive family preservation services) or reunify families as quickly as is safely possible. However, the percent of children exiting out-of-home care that were reunified with their family in 2010 (69 percent) was the lowest percentage in five years. This leaves far too many children without the permanent, supportive family connections that every child needs to grow into a healthy and productive adult. Family preservation and reunification services must be expanded, as these vital programs have not kept pace with the existing need.

KIDS COUNT Data Center

At the KIDS COUNT Data Center you can access the latest available data, as well as the past four years of data, for all of our child welfare indicators, including: child victims of substantiated abuse and the percent who were victimized more than once within 12 months, the number of child abuse referrals investigated and the percent that were substantiated (by type of abuse), children in out-of-home care and the percent placed in foster homes, children receiving kinship care and the percent who live with grandparents, children exiting out-of-home care, and the percentages who were reunified with their family or adopted.

The KIDS COUNT Data Center provides information across states and for Kentucky counties and school districts on many measures of child well-being, including: economic well-being, education, health, and safety. Users can easily rank, map, graph trends over time, and add customized information to their own websites. Users can also view and share data quickly and easily anytime and anywhere with the enhanced mobile site for smart phones.

Looking for more information? Research and recommendations for improving outcomes for the Kentucky KIDS COUNT indicators can be found in the annual Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Books here.