Kentucky’s children deserve better

Published 12:29 pm Monday, April 3, 2017

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and this year Kentuckians have much to be concerned about when it comes to the well being of our children.

Insider Louisville reported last week that a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report revealed Kentucky had almost 19,000 child abuse cases in 2015, or about 19 for every 1,000 children.

Kentucky has the second highest rate of child abuse in the nation, according to the report.

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Kentucky’s rate rose more than 5 percent from the previous year and is more than twice the national average.

As Insider reported, some officials think this increase could be attributed to more people detecting and reporting abuse. While still harrowing, we hope this is the case and not that more and more children are being abused in the Commonwealth.

Children are reliant on the adults in their life to meet their basic needs. Those basic needs extend far beyond the necessities like food and shelter. All children deserve to live without fear of abuse or neglect. Devastatingly, many of Kentucky’s children are not afforded this opportunity.

Parents and guardians are responsible for helping to meet the physical, developmental and emotional needs of their children.

Sadly, with numbers like these, many of us have probably dealt closely with child abuse, whether you were a victim, know someone who was or advocate and care for those who were.

We have to ask how we got here? What has led to such a sad and scary statistic?

Is it the ever increasing drug epidemic in our state? Are our parents dealing with mental health issues? Are other types of addiction (alcohol, gambling, etc.) at the root? Can the lack of jobs or financial stability be to blame? Perhaps there aren’t enough resources for parents in need? A lack of education for young or inexperience parents?

All of this and more plays a role. Unfortunately, we have to believe if there was an answer, our most precious and vulnerable citizens wouldn’t be facing such a sad reality in the Commonwealth.

We recently came off a legislative session that focused on things like justice and education reform, which were much-needed in our state. But, now, with information like this, it is time for more to be done to focus on protecting the children.

Whether that means stricter laws for child abuse or neglect offenders, more resources and training for social workers and school employees, more funding for health department programs like HANDS or just more spent on awareness campaigns, something must be done.

Kentucky, we are failing these children. We’re on the wrong track and it’s high time we turn things around.