Federal report shows 11 children died from maltreatment in Kentucky in 2021

Published 11:18 am Wednesday, February 15, 2023

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By Sarah Ladd

Kentucky Lantern

The number of Kentucky children who were victims of abuse or neglect improved in 2021, according to a new report, but the commonwealth’s is still worse than the national maltreatment rate.

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The Child Maltreatment 2021 report, from the United States Department of Health & Human Services, found that Kentucky had 14,963 child victims in 2021.

That number is down from 2020 (16,748), 2019 (20,130) and 2018 (23,752).

Kentucky’s rate of child victims – 14.7 – places it as sixth in the U.S., behind Alaska, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts and West Virginia. Kentucky improved 33% since 2017. The national rate is 8.1 per 1,000 children.

The state did not improve in child fatalities, though. The report shows 11 Kentucky children died from maltreatment in 2021, up from nine in 2020. There were 12 child maltreatment fatalities reported in 2019, six in 2018 and 10 in 2017.

“To mitigate — to eradicate — maltreatment, we must continue to go upstream with systems-level change that focuses on the whole family,” Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said in a statement. “That involves every branch of government.”

One gap in the data, the Child Maltreatment report says, is that Kentucky does not track sex trafficking as a type of maltreatment.

Brooks pointed to several pieces of legislation up for consideration this session that could help, including House Bill 93 and Senate Bill 48.

The former is a bipartisan piece of legislation. It seeks to allow survivors of domestic and other intimate partner violence to access unemployment insurance.

The latter, Republican-sponsored, seeks to provide more independent oversight of Kentucky’s child-welfare system. It would rearrange the Office of the Ombudsman, Administrative Review and Office of the Inspector and placing them in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services as independent agencies.

“Other proposals advocates hope to see this session include those to automatically expunge a housing eviction after a certain timeframe, to require postpartum depression screenings at appointments after birth, and to close gaps in reporting of suspected maltreatment,” Brooks’ statement said.