Awareness of child abuse starts young

Several weeks ago, news about Kentucky’s harrowing and embarrassing child abuse statistics were released. 

Kentucky’s child abuse rate ranked second in the nation in 2015, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report

Kentucky had nearly 19,000 child abuse cases in 2015, or 19 for every 1,000 children, which is more than double the national average, according to Norton Children’s Hospital.

Earlier this year, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported the number of substantiated child abuse and neglect findings in Kentucky has steadily risen from 9,934 in fiscal 2012 to 15,378 in fiscal 2016, according to Community Based Services. At least 334 children in those cases died or nearly died from mistreatment.

An independent panel of medical, legal and social work experts found that nearly half of the children’s deaths reviewed in 2016 were “preventable.” The panel cited many problems it found along the way, from bystanders who failed to report suspected abuse to social workers sometimes “screening out,” or rejecting, substantive tips that are called in, leaving children in danger

The devastating truth is Kentucky’s children deserve much better than they are being afforded.

At the surface, it seems some of the answers are simple — report child abuse when you suspect it, remove children from potentially dangerous or neglectful situations, make it more difficult for proven abusers to regain custody and most of all, treat your children as the precious gifts they are.

As simple as it seems, getting to the root of this problem has proven more complicated. There are many risk factors that lead to child maltreatment including  substance abuse and addiction, untreated mental health conditions, domestic violence, choosing inappropriate caretakers, exposing children to dangerous situations or people, overwhelmed parenting, a lack of resources to meet the child’s needs, lack of education or knowledge about parenting, generational patterns of abuse and neglect and child behavioral issues.

 We now have an entire month dedicated to raising awareness about the issue. April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month, and local agencies are partnering with our schools to make sure even our youngest citizens know about this issue. 

The topic may seem too much to discuss with young children, but who better to raise awareness about the issue among than those who are the victims? 

By letting children know what constitutes abuse or neglect, we can encourage them to report their own situation or their peers’ potentially dangerous environment. 

Furthermore, events focusing on child abuse awareness expose children to a variety of adults they can then trust to report abuse or neglect. 

This week, students at Campbell Junior High School made pinwheels — the symbol of child abuse awareness — that will be placed in the school’s front lawn to remind passers by of the issue. 

Additionally, the Family Resource and Youth Service centers for Clark County Schools are partnering with the Clark County Child Protective Services to  host a community event Saturday to raise awareness and connect people with resources. There will be activities for kids and families along with informational booths from community partners. 

The solution to this problem isn’t an easy one, but by raising awareness we can begin to have the difficult conversations that must take place to figure out how we can protect our most innocent Kentuckians.