LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — A new report shows child abuse and maltreatment are down in Kentucky, but there is a catch.

“Due to educational instruction being conducted at least partially virtually during the 2020-
21 school year, and considering schools are traditionally the largest source of intakes, the
number of reports decreased by 17.3 percent during FFY 2021,” reads the report.

The Children’s Bureau, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, released the Child Maltreatment 2021 report on Feb. 9.

Kentucky has historically ranked poorly in child abuse and maltreatment, having multiple years in the number one spot. In 2022, Kentucky Youth Advocates celebrated a 16.3% drop in Kentucky victims. Kentucky fell from the number one spot to the fifth spot in that report.

“While we celebrate this as a win for Kentucky children and their families, it is important to identify risk factors and support policies and programs that will continue Kentucky’s progress toward protecting its children,” the nonprofit wrote in a Feb. 8, 2022 news release.


The report still shows an alarming total number of victims: 14,963, which is more than the population of Kentucky’s smallest 47 counties or more than three freshman classes at the University of Kentucky.

“While there has been a 33% reduction in victims from 2017 to 2021, Kentucky is still nearly double the national rate of child maltreatment at 8.1 per 1,000 children,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.

How did Kentucky rank in 2021?

Kentucky is still headed in the right direction coming up from the fifth worst state to now the sixth, according to the report.

Kentucky had 14,963 victims, with the majority 92.2% suffering from neglect and another 7.2% being physically abused. The report also shows factors that put children at risk and Kentucky had two standouts: domestic abuse (51.9%), and drug abuse (54.4%).

Other factors are caregiver disability (27.8%) and inadequate housing (19.5%).


In 2022, Lexington saw a 1,100% increase in domestic violence homicides. According to Greenhouse 17, one in four Kentucky women experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Domestic violence is more than just physical abuse and usually happens behind closed doors. It can be in the form of emotional abuse, financial abuse, or even isolation. While Lexington is seeing this rapid rise of domestic violence homicide cases, the groups want the community to work together against any form of abuse.

In regards to drug abuse, a 2022 WalletHub report ranked Kentucky as number 12 in drug use and number one in drug-related fatalities per capita. According to the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, from January 2020 to January 2022, Kentucky went from 1,374 deaths over 12 months in 2020 to 2,380 deaths in 2022, a nearly 73% increase.

Who are the Kentucky abuse victims?

The Child Maltreatment report tracks many identity marks that can help shed light on those who are being abused or neglected.

Of the 14,963 children who were reported maltreated or abused, a large portion was below the age of 2. According to the report, 4,381, or nearly 29% of the child victims, were 2 years old or younger.

Children under 1-year-old face the highest rate of maltreatment and abuse in Kentucky with 2,298 victims being reported in 2021. Their rate of maltreatment is more than double compared to most other age groups at 45.6 for every 1,000 children.

Age of victims<1123456789
Number of victims2,2981,0591,024940902834832778732710
Child Maltreatment 2021
unborn or 18-21
Number of victims6567147136466685894903463214,963
Child Maltreatment 2021