FRANKFORT, Ky. - A state report says at least 22 Kentucky children died in the past year as a result of abuse and neglect.
But the annual report from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services released Friday says the deaths have decreased in recent years.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports there were 31 child abuse deaths for fiscal year 2011, 36 the year before, 29 in 2009 and 30 in 2008.
Child advocates say the drop in child abuse deaths is good news, but 22 is still too many.
"We should all celebrate that trend-line while at the same time remembering that the death of a single child is still too many for us to ever tolerate," said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, a Louisville-based non-profit.
The report says 33 additional children were "nearly killed" or sustained life-threatening injuries as a result of abuse in the past year, and a total of 15,699 Kentucky children were abused or neglected over the last 12 months that ended June 30.
It said in fiscal year 2012, there were 34,706 reports of child abuse and neglect, compared to 30,964 in 2008.
Over the past five years, there have been 386 deaths and near-deaths of children as a result of abuse. Of those cases, the cabinet had prior contact in 214 instances.
The vast majority of perpetrators in the 214 cases were biological parents of the child. Mothers were perpetrators in 21 percent of cases, fathers were perpetrators in 17 percent of cases and both parents were culpable in 20 percent of cases. A parent's boyfriend or girlfriend was listed as the perpetrator 10 percent of the time.
Gov. Steve Beshear this year created an external panel of 17 experts to review all child deaths and near-deaths that stem from abuse or neglect. That panel is charged with examining such cases and making recommendations for policy changes and improvements. The panel has not yet had a meeting.
The report said the number of deaths attributed to abuse or neglect in the 2012 fiscal year could increase as pending investigations are finalized or new information comes to light.
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