Kentucky ranks among the Top 20 worst states in the U.S. for children in many areas, according to a new study.

The report, 2019’s States with the Most Underprivileged Children, came from personal finance website WalletHub and was released Wednesday.

To bring awareness to the condition of underprivileged children throughout the U.S., WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 26 key measures of neediness. The data set ranges from share of children in households with below-poverty income to child food-insecurity rate to share of maltreated children.

Kentucky ranked as follows on the report:

  • 17th overall for most underprivileged children.
  • Seventh highest for the percent of children in households with below-poverty income.
  • First highest for the percent of maltreated children.
  • 20th for child food-insecurity rate.
  • 17th for infant mortality rate.
  • 15th for percent of children in foster care.
  • 19th for percent of children in single-parent families.

The U.S. has the seventh-highest rate of child poverty – more than 29 percent – among economically developed countries. And according to the Children’s Defense Fund, a child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds.

Perhaps the most alarming ranking from the report is that Kentucky continues to remain first in the nation – report after report and study after study – for abused, neglected and mistreated children.

The most recent Child Maltreatment Report, issued in late March by the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reveals Kentucky has the highest rates of child abuse in the nation.

According to the report, Kentucky had 22,410 child abuse victims in 2017, the last year for which data is available. That equates to a rate of about 22 victims per 1,000 children in the commonwealth, which is more than twice the national average rate of nine.

There were also 10 child fatalities attributed to abuse in Kentucky in 2017.

Kentucky’s rate has increased annually from 2013 (17.3 percent), with a more than 27 percent increase over the four years. In 2013, there were 17,591 cases of abuse reported in the state. In 2016, when the rate was 19.8, and there were 20,010 reported cases.

We can all take part in reversing this negative trend and helping survivors.

Learn about the indicators of abuse. There are many, including unexplained bruises, cuts, welts, scars, fractures and burns.

There are also behavioral indicators, like aggressiveness or withdrawal.

Other visible signs are children who are frightened of their parents or say they are afraid to go home. Be mindful of children who report being extremely hungry, who exhibit bad hygiene or dress inappropriately for the season.

Watch for children in your community who are often unsupervised, especially for long periods or in potentially dangerous scenarios.

Report potential abuse to the police or by calling the Child Help National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4ACHILD.

Encourage your legislators to support laws that protect children and strengthen punishments for abusers.

Additionally, our state must continue fighting against addiction, including drugs and alcohol. They play a massive role in the quality of life for our families and children, and as this research indicates, contribute to child abuse and neglect in our state.

Our state needs to also allot more funding for DCBS and other child welfare programs. There are shortages of qualified social workers and foster parents to help these children find their way out of abusive homes and into friendly, safe places.

Finally, we need to improve access and funding for programs for parents. Such programs include parenting classes, HANDS programs, educational programs and other assistance programs. These programs help to reduce the burden of stress many parents, especially first-time, young or low-income parents feel, which might result in abuse or neglect.

Childhood should be fun. It should be a time of growth and learning. It’s time to be nurtured and loved.

Our children are our future, and they deserve better.

Be mindful. Speak up. Stop abuse. Report it. Be an advocate. Help make the world a better place for children.

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