Kosair Charities has worked for nearly a century to protect our most vulnerable children. A need arose to address the out of control issue of child abuse and neglect, as well as child abuse deaths in the Commonwealth. Kosair Charities stepped forward to bring together key partners and develop a campaign to counteract the problem statewide.
The result is the Face It® Movement, launched in 2013, which aims to promote best practices in child abuse prevention, build awareness, and advocate for policies to improve the child welfare system in Kentucky. The problem is real, and heartbreaking: over 2,600 children in Jefferson County alone experienced abuse or neglect in state fiscal year 2017, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Service, and there were 11 fatalities or near fatalities that same time period.
“These numbers were even more staggering five years ago,” says Keith Inman, president of Kosair Charities. “Something had to change, and we knew it would take a village, as they say.”
Face It® would like for all children statewide to be free from abuse and neglect by 2023. Fully funded by Kosair Charities and coordinated by Kentucky Youth Advocates, nearly 60 organizations—including nonprofits, government agencies, medical professionals and school systems—have joined as partners. But keeping children safe is a community effort and here are three ways adults can help.
1. Know What to Look For
For children, especially those at or beyond the point of being able to pull themselves up into a standing position, some bruises are normal. They tend to occur on the front of the child’s body and on bony areas like foreheads, elbows, knees, and shins.
But other bruises can be red flags. Bruises are often commonly missed warning signs of child physical abuse, but also the most recognizable if we know what to look for.
Dr. Currie, the chief of the Kosair Charities Division of Pediatric Forensic Medicine at the University of Louisville and a founding partner of the Face It Movement, urges each of us to remember the “TEN-4” rule: bruising on the torso, ears or neck of a child under 4 years old, or any bruising on a baby under four months old, should be reported. Bruising on the ear or neck is very rarely from accidental injuries, and any bruising in babies not yet cruising is cause for great concern.
Note the color and shape of the bruise. Stripe-like bruising on the face can be from a slap; parentheses-shaped bruises may be the result of a bite from an adult, especially if the child is not typically around other young children; and loop shaped bruises can occur from children being struck with thin, flexible objects like a belt, cord, or wire coat hanger.
Suspected child sexual abuse brings another set of signs, such as the child having difficulty concentrating, showing little emotion, or displaying episodes of anger or moodiness. They may avoid a specific adult, become more aggressive with friends or pets, or wish to stay at school longer to avoid going home.
Infants who have been sexually abused may show a lack of appetite or a total loss of interest in food. Older children may exhibit substance abuse problems, try to run away from home, or even try to harm themselves or commit suicide.
Child maltreatment occurs across all ethnic and economic groups, and even in “nice” families and families that look similar to our own. The most overlooked cases occur in Caucasian families, well-educated, middle-class families, and families in which the parents are still together.
Remember, children may not react as adults might expect. Some children will not demonstrate these, or any, warning signs.
Ensuring parents and caregivers have appropriate expectations for their child’s behavior and development is critical to preventing maltreatment. Supportive neighbors and communities can also play a key role in helping kids and families stay safe and healthy.
2. Talk to Your Kids
Children at any age are vulnerable to abuse, from defenseless infants to teenagers asserting their independence in the wider world. Once kids become old enough to communicate, talking with them is key.
Preschool-aged children should know the difference between touching that’s OK and not OK, and the difference between good and bad secrets. Teach them that once they can bathe and use the restroom on their own, they shouldn’t accept help from adults and older children.
Grade school exposes children to an expanded circle of peers and adults. Learn about internet safety together, by reading tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Scholastic. Learn how to talk to kids about sensitive subjects like bullying and alcohol and drug abuse. Encourage them to choose group activities over one-on-one settings.
With teenagers, reinforce the need to know where the child is going, whom they will be with, and when they’ll be home. Check in by phone, get to know the teen’s friends and their parents, and talk to them about how they spend free time to ensure they’re making good choices.
If your child discloses an episode of abuse, it’s key to stay calm and be a source of safety and support. If you spot an injury, it’s OK to ask what happened. Use non-leading questions, don’t press for details, and let the story unfold.
Face It offers a texting service that provides other reminders and conversation starters to help parents communicate with children. Text “FacingIt” to 51555 to receive four to five helpful texts per month.
3. Know Where to Go for Help
Kentucky law requires any person with a reasonable suspicion that child maltreatment has occurred to contact Child Protective Services. The number for Kentucky is 1-877-KYSAFE1. The law allows anonymous calls but giving a name helps investigators ask follow-up questions.
Callers should give the child’s name if they know it, address, and specifics about what they saw and why they believe maltreatment is occurring. Also mention any imminent risks the child may face, and if there are any younger siblings in the home.
To learn more about the Face It® movement and how you can help end child maltreatment in Jefferson County by 2023, go to www.FaceItAbuse.org or call (502) 895-8167. Kosair Charities is headquartered at 982 Eastern Parkway Louisville, KY 40217. They can be reached online by or phone at 502-637-7696.