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Kentucky ranks No. 1 in child abuse cases nationwide for third straight year, Indiana holds highest death rate

Experts and advocates fear the COVID-19 pandemic will bring a spike in child abuse cases.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For the third year in a row, Kentucky has the highest child abuse rate in the country. Meanwhile, Indiana holds the highest child abuse death rate nationwide.

Norton Children's Hospital planted pinwheels outside its building to bring attention to the alarming trend Kentucky is trying to tackle as Child Abuse Awareness Month starts.

"The pinwheels are supposed to represent children's joy and childhood and that they deserve to have a childhood and our work to preserve that," said Dr. Jennie Green with Norton Children's Hospital. 

According the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Children’s Bureau "Child Maltreatment 2019" report, Kentucky had 20,130 child abuse cases. That's about 20 out of every 1,000 children. 

"To visualize that, that's filling up the entire Yum! Center and then having children beyond the building and that is terrifying," said Lindsay Wehr, senior vice president of strategy and outreach for Kosair Charities. 

Indiana's child abuse rate improved, but it ranked No. 1 for the most deaths. In 2019, 116 children died in the Hoosier state.

"It's everyone's role to help prevent child abuse, it's everyone's role to help recognize child abuse and that they really can save lives," Green said. 

Experts and advocates fear the COVID-19 pandemic will bring a spike in cases.

"It's because those eyes and ears are not there that typically are whether that's at your church in schools," Wehr said. 

Kentucky and Indiana prevention programs are finding creative ways to do outreach from training business owners to look out for signs or passing out brochures. 

"Repair people you know people who might go inside of homes or have access to children with families," said Sandy Runkle, director of programs at Prevent Child Abuse of Indiana. 

Norton Children's Hospital said anyone who sees something needs to say something. One way to help is by following the TEN-4 bruising rule, which means look out for signs on the torso, ears and neck.

"Those are sights of the body that are most important to recognize," Green said. "If you see injuries of those in kids younger than the age of 4 or in babies who are not yet cruising…then that would be a big red flag for child abuse that we would want you to seek medical care and also report that to child protective services."

For more information on recognizing physical abuse and preventing child abuse, click here.

RELATED: Pandemic means far fewer eyes on kids' welfare

RELATED: 'Unfortunately there will be something to report' | Police expect child abuse cases to rise as schools reopen

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