Too Many Unreported Child-Abuse Cases in Illinois
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and in Illinois, 125,000 children are the victims of abuse or neglect each year.
According to the Department of Children and Family Services, the problem could actually be worse, with as many as 100,000 abuse cases a year going unreported.
Veronica Resa, deputy director of the office of communications at DCFS, said in the last four years, the agency has received more than 1 million calls to its child abuse hotline. She said that means Illinois residents are making the socially responsible choice to keep kids safe, and get families the help they need before it's too late.
"Sometimes, these calls are referral to services,” Resa said. “But the first thing we do, hopefully within 24 hours, a social worker tries to reach that family or that family member that needs our help."
Child abuse is defined as mistreatment of a child under 18 by a parent or their romantic partner, an immediate relative or someone living in the child's home, a babysitter or daycare worker, or any person responsible for the child's welfare. That could include a healthcare provider, teacher, coach or youth program volunteer.
The Illinois Child Abuse Hotline number is 800-25-ABUSE.
It's estimated that 1-in-5 children will experience abuse before age 18. Resa said people shouldn't be afraid to report suspected abuse or neglect because it doesn't automatically mean a child will be taken from the home.
"What we're going to do is hopefully find them family services, help them stay united through supporting them, with things such as parenting classes or anger management classes,” she said. "We even have classes to help them with finances."
National Child Abuse Prevention Month events and awareness campaigns are being held across the state, including an art exhibit at the Thompson Center in Chicago, a pinwheel and blue ribbon display at the Governor's Mansion in Springfield, and the first-ever "Twitter Chat" of parenting advice on April 25.