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Report: More than 200 children died or nearly died from reported abuse in Kentucky in 2021

Kentucky reports for abuse are declining, but deaths and near deaths have increased 22% in 2021, according to a new report.

April 18, 2022

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A new report from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services reveals concerning data on child deaths related to abuse in the state. The state saw a decline in reported child abuse starting in 2020 with a significant drop in reports in 2021.

”I would suggest that we be cautiously optimistic about that,” said Pam Darnall, the CEO of Family & Children’s Place. It’s an organization that’s been protecting Kentucky children and families for about a hundred years.

Darnall said the data must be put into context. Many kids weren’t physically going to school, meaning teachers, coaches and community centers weren’t able to see and report signs of abuse.

She said it left children to fend for themselves.

”We also do know that, especially with child sexual abuse, isolation is really one of the most important things,” said Darnall.

Despite the decline in reported abuse, child deaths and near-deaths related to reported abuse went up 22% in 2021 compared to 2020. Darnall also saw 1,500 kids reported to the Family & Children’s Place child advocacy center which helps kids hurt by sex abuse and trafficking. It’s the most they’d seen in six years.

In the last 5 years, 71% of the deaths and near-deaths of children in the commonwealth were cases where a social worker had been investigating the situation, according to the report.

Darnall has a decade’s worth of experience as a social worker, and said it’s a difficult job, “especially when that one person may be carrying 40 to 60 families when, ideally, they should be carrying 20.”

The high caseloads and exodus of social workers have created a major backlog. It’s a problem Governor Andy Beshear pledged to fix in December 2021. He said beginning Dec. 16, all social workers and support staff would receive a 10% raise.

He also announced more programs aimed at hiring social workers in the next two years.

Contact reporter Kristin Goodwillie at and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Link to Original Story from WHAS11