Report: Kentucky has highest child abuse rate in U.S.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – Kentucky and Indiana children continue to suffer abuse at alarming rates.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Children’s Bureau “Child Maltreatment 2017” report — released in 2019 — shows Kentucky now has the highest abuse rate in the country. The commonwealth reported more than 22,000 victims (compared with 20,000 in the 2016 report), or about 22 out of every 1,000 children.

The rate is more than double the national average.

The good news for Kentucky is child abuse deaths dropped for the third straight year. In 2017, 10 child fatalities were attributed to abuse. Here’s how the state stack up to the rest of the country:


2017 abuse cases 2017 abuse rate (per 1,000) 2017 deaths 2017 death rate

(per 100,000)

Kentucky 22,410 22.2 10 0.99
Ranking 10th 1st 38th 43rd
U.S. 673,830 9.1 1,688 2.32


Numbers from “Child Maltreatment 2017” report

Rankings are from 1 (worst) to 52 (best) and include Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. 

In recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, here are some simple ways parents and bystanders can make a lifesaving difference:

  • If you feel yourself about to lose control with a child, it’s OK to step away. Listen to your favorite song, take a few deep breaths or call a friend.
  • Keep a list of friends’ and family members’ phone numbers to call for support.
  • Learn the TEN-4 bruising rule: Children under age 4 should not have bruising on the torso, ears or neck. Infants who are not mobile rarely have any bruises.
  • If you know a parent who may be feeling stressed, offer to babysit so he or she can have a break for an hour or two.
  • Offer to run an errand for a neighbor with small children who has difficulty getting out of the house. A small gesture like that can greatly reduce stress for the parent.
  • If you see someone about to raise a hand to a child, you can help the situation. Even saying something like, “I remember when my child acted like that,” can break the tension and protect the child.

More ideas are available at

In Kentucky, the number to call to report suspected child abuse is (877) KY-SAFE1 (597-2331).

In Indiana, call (800) 800-5556. The National Child Abuse Hotline, (800) 4-A-CHILD (422-4453), offers professional crisis counselors who can provide intervention, information and referrals to emergency, social service and support resources.

Calls are confidential.

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