Kentucky leads the country in child abuse and neglect, according to a 2019 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report.According to state and Fort Knox officials, instances of abuse and neglect typically rise during elongated periods of isolation such as when school lets out for the summer.However, Jill Seyfred, executive director for Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, said the number of reported cases are actually down, though the figures are skewed because of school closures due to COVID-19. Seyfred said she believes these circumstances may actually lead to higher numbers for 2020.“Teachers and personnel are the number one reporters of child abuse and neglect, and they report concerns they see in their schools or classrooms,” Seyfred said. “They typically have eyes on the child five days a week and are attuned to how the child behaves, their physical state, and how they’re changing from day to day.“[With COVID-19,] the kids haven’t been to school in months, and the eyes and ears who observe the children everyday have been greatly reduced.”Seyfred said added stressors like being confined at home and unemployment are also factors to consider.“We’re dealing with extraordinary times right now,” she said. “We’re seeing it throughout the nation that the number of child abuse reports has actually declined, but it stands to reason that tensions at home are on the rise with higher unemployment, financial insecurities. Kids at home could make for the perfect storm in any home.”Even warmer temperatures can cause increased instances that are not necessarily reported, she said.“There are some risks that we have during the summer that we don’t have during the cooler months,” said Seyfred. “Children are outside more and unsupervised, and there are more opportunities for accidents with children being hit by cars, left in hot cars, firearms discharges and accidental drownings. Unsupervised children have more access to dangerous situations.”Reporting does not always result in a case of child abuse or neglect, but it often results in an inquiry into the problem.“Isolated incidents or any one incident may not mean anything, but different incidences may be puzzle pieces that put together a picture or abuse or neglect,” Seyfred said. “It’s not up to normal citizens to determine if there is abuse or neglect, but it is up to us to report instances we witness to the people who are trained to investigate and determine if a child is in a safe environment.”Since the advent of Talia’s Law, military investigations of child abuse and neglect have been given double scrutiny to protect vulnerable children, according to a Fort Knox school official.The law is named for five-year-old Talia Williams who died after months of abuse by her Soldier father and stepmother that was reported to military officials numerous times but never reported to state child welfare officials.“Federal agencies have gone to two points of contact reporting,” said Brenda Weatherington, Fort Knox Community Schools liaison. “[By law,] we now report to the military police, the Family Advocacy Program, to your command but also to [the Kentucky] Department of Community Based Services.”Weatherington said the investigative process is thorough and helps find the truth of the matter.“You make the call, and someone comes out to make sure the child is safe,” she said. “It may turn out to be nothing, and it’s sometimes helpful to the parent who may be unaware. It’s important to put that child’s safety first because they’re the most defenseless in any situation.”___________________________________________________To make a report of suspected child abuse incidents that occur on Fort Knox, contact the military police 502-624-2111.The Fort Knox Family Advocacy Program’s Domestic Violence Call Center is available 24 hours a day by calling 1-855-827-0400.Contact Hardin County Department of Community Based Services (DCBS) for incidents that occur off-post at 270-766-5088.