The results — released this week by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services — show Kentucky child-welfare workers investigated and confirmed nearly 15 percent more cases of abuse and neglect in the year ending June 30 than in the previous 12 months.
Preliminary numbers show nine child fatalities and 27 near-fatalities from abuse or neglect during that period — a drop from the previous year. But those numbers typically rise as coroners’ reports and other pending investigations are concluded.
The report “says to me that they are serious about looking at trends about what’s going well and what’s not going well,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, a private organization that promotes child well-being.
In all but one of the nine fatality cases, the cabinet’s Division for Protection and Permanency had some history of involvement with the family, including investigations or assessments of concerns over the child’s safety or custody.
And of the 27 children who nearly died because of abuse or neglect, 17 had prior involvement by cabinet workers, the report says.
All of those numbers are down from the 2012 annual report, but fatality statistics typically rise as more investigations conclude.
For example, the 2012 report initially reported 22 child fatalities because of abuse or neglect — eight of which had prior cabinet involvement. Those figures were updated to 32 and 11, respectively, in this year’s report.
“It’s tempting to get either overly excited in a positive way or overly despondent in a negative way when you see the number of children who die,” Brooks said. “A single kid who dies is one too many.”
Tina Webb, assistant director of the cabinet’s Division of Protection and Permanency, said, “We want to prevent every single one.”
Kentucky child abuse, neglect report
Fiscal year ** 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Reports meeting criteria for investigation 33,001 33,362* 32,835 34,706 39,847
Children in cases meeting criteria for investigation 44,992 45,857* 45,104 47,188 54,112
Abuse/neglect substantiated 9,112 9,477* 9,595 9,935 11,288
Children in substantiated cases 14,475 15,092* 15,510 15,699 17,844
Fatalities involving abuse or neglect 29 35* 31 (18)* 32 (22)* 9
Abuse/neglect fatalities with prior state involvement 15 23* 17 (10)* 11 (8)* 8
Near-fatalities involving abuse or neglect 60* 51 48 (51)* 44 (33)* 27
Abuse/neglect near-fatalities with prior state involvement 35 26 25 28 (22)* 17
*Figures updated from original year’s report, which are in parentheses in selected cases
**Twelve-month period ending in June
Source: Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services
It’s the law
All Kentucky citizens are required by law to report suspected child abuse or neglect to law enforcement or the cabinet at 1-877-597-2331.