New Child Abuse Reforms in Effect in Kentucky

May 9, 2022 at 10:32 am
Top Concerns For Kentucky Kids

Gov. Andy Beshear has signed legislation clarifying the definition of child abuse and neglect, and allowing the state to move faster on suspected abuse cases, along with a host of other reforms.

Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, sponsor of Senate Bill 8, said the law changes the risk requirements needed for state services to intervene and begin helping families.

"So rather than enter these homes and situations when they're very critical, we are now able to work with families on the front end," Raque Adams explained. "Maybe get the addiction treatment that they need, maybe get the counseling that they need, maybe get the mental health services that they need, so we can start to heal that family while it's intact."

The latest federal child maltreatment report finds domestic violence and drug abuse are among the highest risk factors for child victims of abuse and neglect. In Kentucky and nationwide, children younger than one year old experience maltreatment at a higher rate.

The bill also changes Medicaid rules, so community partners can get reimbursed for the full cost of care.

Caroline Ruschell, executive director for Children's Advocacy Centers of Kentucky, said the current reimbursement rate for child sexual-abuse medical exams is not enough to cover the cost, which can be as high as $2,000 per exam.

"Those involve a mental-health screening," Ruschell explained. "Photo documentation — which is really important — of the abuse, they are done in a trauma-informed way with a medical professional who has been specially trained in how to do this."

Ken Reiss, board chair of Kosair Charities, said the legislation is a step forward, but more work needs to be done to keep Kentucky kids safe.

"The numbers are not yet in, relative to the COVID years," Reiss pointed out. "There is a fair amount of fear within the medical community that it could be even worse for kids. So we have little victories, we have a lot of support, and no one is giving up."

Kosair Charities' Face It Movement serves as a resource for families and community members looking for prevention, recognition and reporting information during Child Abuse Prevention Month and beyond.

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