Mandatory Reporting

Kentucky law requires mandatory reporting of child abuse, neglect, and dependency (KRS 620) and the abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of adults who have a physical or mental disability and are unable to protect themselves; this might include an elderly person (KRS 209). Reports are typically made to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The Cabinet, in turn, will investigate the allegation and is sometimes required to notify the appropriate law enforcement agency. Disclosure of abuse/neglect may result in a criminal investigation, arrest, and prosecution of the abuser, although the primary purpose of our mandatory reporting laws is to get protective services to the person being abused.

As of June 29, 2017, Kentucky’s mandatory reporting law for victims of domestic violence has been changed to a mandatory information and referral provision.  The revised law requires certain professionals to provide educational material to victims of domestic and dating violence with whom they have had a professional interaction. This law also requires these same professionals to make a report to police IF requested to by the victim and to report to police if they believe that the death of a victim may be related to domestic or dating violence. More information about this law can be found here.


Any person who has reason to believe a child is dependent, neglected, or abused must report this to the Cabinet, the state or local police, or the local prosecutor’s office. See Duty to Report.

Definitions of an abused or neglected child and dependent child can be found here. It should be noted that, in order for a situation to trigger the mandatory reporting law, there usually must be a specific relationship between the child and the abuser. The abusive person must be a parent, a guardian, a person exercising custodial control or supervision, or a person in a position of authority or special trust defined here.

Additionally, any child suspected of being trafficked must be reported to the Cabinet. This would include labor trafficking (procured through force, fraud, or coercion) or any instance in which a minor is involved in commercial sex activity (prostitution, participation in the production of obscene material, or engaging in a sexually explicit performance).

If a person 21 years of age or older commits an act of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or prostitution upon a child less than 16 years of age, that also must be reported to the Cabinet.

Disclosures or evidence of abuse, neglect, or dependency of a child will result in a report being made and an investigation being pursued. In Kentucky, as in many other states, there has been a somewhat alarming trend to hold domestic violence victims accountable for “exposing” their children to the violence being perpetrated upon them, the adult victim, by the abuser. That is, the child has not been the target of physical or sexual violence and has not experienced any physical injury, or true neglect, but that being in a home where violence is occurring is causing an emotional injury to the child. These co-occurring cases of domestic violence and child “abuse” or “neglect” have resulted in many children being removed from the victim’s custody under a “failure to protect” theory.

Many victims have very few real “options” for escaping from abusive relationships. Some victims are actually trying to be protective by staying – because they know our courts typically will award joint custody and liberal timesharing to both the victim and the abuser when the victim does successfully escape. By staying, they are able to monitor the interactions between the child and the abuser and possibly intervene if needed. Abusers who perpetrate against their adult intimate partner are far more likely than non-abusers to commit child abuse and child sexual abuse.

It should also be noted that, under Kentucky law, the statutory definition of “emotional injury”, as it relates to child abuse/neglect, requires a finding that the child have a substantial and observable impairment in their ability to function as testified to by a qualified mental health professional.

Some thought should therefore be taken by anyone considering reporting child abuse when the actual target of the abuse in the home is the adult parent. Removal of children and placing them out of home with relatives or in foster care often have very damaging, long-term negative impacts on children. Children typically do much better when a strong, positive bond with a non-offending parent can be maintained and fostered. Supporting the abused parent and helping them reach a place of safety and financial independence should typically be the goal for service providers.


In Kentucky over 874,000 people have a disability. Sixty to 85% of women, and 25%- 55% of men, with a disability experience domestic or sexual violence in their lifetime. Ninety percent of people with a developmental disability will experience sexual abuse in their lifetimes and, most typically, on a repeated basis. Many victims of such abuse are elderly. People with a disability may be more isolated and more dependent on a very small circle of caretakers and may therefore be especially vulnerable targets for abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. For more information on elder abuse, visit the Nursing Home Abuse Center Website.

KRS 209 was enacted to provide a safety net for such vulnerable adults. Any person having reason to believe that an adult with a mental or physical disability who is unable to manage their resources, carry out the activities of daily living, or protect themselves from neglect, exploitation, or a hazardous or abusive situation without assistance from others, and who may be in need of protective services, must report this to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.


The CHFS abuse hotline is: 1-877-597-2331

Responding to information about abuse and neglect:

  • Listen and BELIEVE.
  • Do not investigate, if it isn’t your job to do so.
  • Determine if reporting is required by law.
  • Make the report immediately, if required by law or requested by the victim. 
  • Do so in the safest way possible for the victim/safety planning/referrals.
  • Identify resources for the victim and yourself.
  • Continue to interact with the victim as normally as possible and provide support.
  • Reporting is often a beginning, not an end!
  • Victims often need more support and advocacy after a report is made.