By Dr. Laura Hancock Jones, Dr. Christina Howard, and Keith Inman
In the last seven months, Kentuckians have heard a lot about how, even in these unprecedented times of physical distancing, we can come together to help protect our family and neighbors from the spread of COVID-19 and stay connected so no one feels alone.
As a dentist, pediatrician, and nonprofit leader committed to preventing and ending child abuse in the commonwealth, we would like to add one more non-negotiable to come together on: identifying your role in keeping kids safe.
Child maltreatment rates have remained too high in Kentucky for far too long. We have the highest rate in the nation of child victims of substantiated abuse and double the national rate for child victims under age one. And we know the risks associated with abuse have only been exacerbated during the pandemic as families experience ongoing isolation and intolerable stress.
And we wholeheartedly believe that one child harmed is one too many.
In 2013, Kosair Charities set out to end child abuse in the commonwealth by its 100th birthday in 2023. While that is a lofty goal, the Charities’ Face It Movement and its coalition of more than 100 partners from across Kentucky are steadfast in their commitment to promote best practices in abuse prevention and intervention, build awareness and engage the community, and advocate for policies to improve the child welfare system.
Keeping kids safe is an adult responsibility that spans across professions, families, and neighbors.
Face It is committed to equipping adults with the knowledge to recognize maltreatment and to report to Child Protective Services. That is why the coalition is hosting a series of public trainings on child abuse recognition and prevention with Kentucky’s child abuse pediatricians and experts.
All Kentucky adults are mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect. If you’re not sure how to recognize maltreatment, one easy-to-remember tool is the TEN-4 Bruising Rule. Kids are kids, and sometimes they get minor cuts and bruises on bony areas of the body, like knees and foreheads. However, there are signs that should be red flags for possible abuse. Bruising on the Torso, Ears, or Neck (TEN) on any child age 4 years old or under, or any bruising anywhere on a baby not yet pulling up or taking steps, is cause for concern and must be reported.
We are proud to be training nearly 1,000 nurses, social workers, educators, dental professionals, and caring adults on this tool, along with other important abuse prevention information. We are also proud to have a proclamation from local leaders in Bowling Green, Campbell County, Florence, Lexington, Louisville, Kenton County, and Owensboro proclaiming Oct. 4 as TEN-4 Day – a strong commitment from our leaders that the safety of our kids is top priority.
As important as recognizing and reporting are, we must also emphasize the importance of ensuring parents and caregivers and those in the broader community have the tools and knowledge needed to prevent maltreatment from happening in the first place.
Our youngest Kentuckians are the most vulnerable, so showing up for new parents can set families up for success.
It’s easy to understand why parents thrive when they feel supported and equipped in their parenting journey – and that can be especially true while parenting during a pandemic. As parents ourselves, we empathize with all parents balancing schooling, child caring, and playing all while working to make ends meet for your family. We understand how far a “you’ve got this!” or a simple understanding nod at the grocery store can go.
If the last seven months have shown us anything, it’s that we are stronger together. Our children are so resilient, and families are trying their best with the circumstances they are in.
No matter how you interact with kids in your daily life, YOU have a role to play in keeping them safe and supporting their families. What’s your commitment to end child abuse?
Laura Hancock Jones, DMD is a general dentist from Union County and chair of the Kentucky Oral Health Coalition; Christina Howard, MD, FAAP is Chief of the Division of Pediatric Forensic Medicine at Kentucky Children’s Hospital; and, Keith Inman is president of Kosair Charities®. Learn more at www.faceitmovement.org.