LOUISVILLE, Ky. (April 14, 2022) – With Kentucky still outpacing the nation in instances of child abuse, state officials and Norton Children’s announced $6 million from the Kentucky General Assembly aimed at reducing the number of child deaths and injuries related to abuse. An additional $2 million has been committed to the initiative by the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation, thanks to generous donations from the community.

The funds will support Norton Children’s Pediatric Protection Specialists, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, and will help establish Norton Children’s as a child protection Center of Excellence, as defined by the Children’s Hospital Association. The center will serve all counties in Kentucky. The initiative will include the hiring of additional doctors, nurses, psychologists and other experts specifically trained in identifying, treating and preventing abuse. It also will expand mental health, therapy services, parenting classes and prevention efforts available to families in need. The center will be the only program of its kind in Kentucky.

Funds from the General Assembly were secured with leadership from Sen. Julie Raque Adams in the most recent biennium budget, which begins July 1, 2022, and goes through June 30, 2024.

“Our rates of child abuse and neglect continue to cause great concern, and we, as a state, must take more steps to address this issue,” said Raque Adams, who sponsored the legislation. “I’m proud that we are able to support these programs and improve the lives of children and families all across the commonwealth.”

Norton Children’s Pediatric Protection Specialists is the only full-service pediatric forensic medicine program that serves all 120 counties in Kentucky. It provides medical assessment for suspected victims of child maltreatment, regardless of whether they are seen at a Norton Children’s facility. The team assesses thousands of children per year, creates court-worthy documentation about findings, liaises with community investigators, and testifies in family and criminal courts when needed. The program also teaches medical professionals; community partners, including child protective services and police; and many other groups about child maltreatment recognition, reporting and intervention.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Children’s Bureau “Child Maltreatment 2020” report — released this year — Kentucky’s rate of child abuse victims is 16.7 per 1,000 children, meaning about 17 out of every 1,000 children in the commonwealth experienced some type of child maltreatment. This is double the U.S. average of 8.4.

While that number is a decrease from the previous year, local health experts believe the COVID-19 pandemic led to a drop in reporting.

“Thanks to this new funding, we plan to create a center that can help lead the way to a decrease in the numbers of children who suffer from physical and sexual abuse and neglect,” said Melissa L. Currie, M.D., child abuse pediatrician and director of Norton Children’s Pediatric Protection Specialists.

The Norton Children’s team has been a leader in child abuse detection, having been involved in developing the TEN-4 bruising model that is now used throughout the country. Simply stated, any child under age 4 should not have any bruising on their torso, ears or neck.  Likewise, any child who is not yet pulling up and taking steps should not have any bruising anywhere on their body. If bruises do exist, it is a strong indicator of abuse. In most cases, a child shows early warning signs of abuse well before coming to the hospital with life-threatening injuries from that abuse.

“Child abuse is a systemic challenge, and it will take all of us to move the needle,” said Lynnie Meyer, R.N., Ed.D., CFRE, senior vice president and chief development officer, Norton Healthcare. “The Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation is committed to the cause, and we’re asking for the community to join us in helping protect our most vulnerable citizens.”

To support child abuse prevention initiatives at Norton Children’s, visit HelpNortonChildrens.com.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Find prevention tips and how to identify abuse at DontHurtChildren.com.

In Kentucky, the number to call to report suspected child abuse is (877) KY-SAFE1 (597-2331). The National Child Abuse Hotline, (800) 4-A-CHILD (422-4453), offers professional crisis counselors who can provide intervention, information and referrals to emergency, social services and support resources. Calls are confidential. In Kentucky, everyone is mandated to report a reasonable suspicion that maltreatment has occurred.