Winnebago county sees more cases of abuse and neglect. The victims are some of the smallest.
A look into a recent report by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services shows the rates are climbing.
The statistics come from the Illinois Child Abuse Hotline. Last year alone, the hotline received more than 74,000 calls.
In the past 10 years, reported cases has jumped more than 25 percent.
According to data compiled by Northwestern University from DCFS and the U.S. Census Bureau, for every 10,000 children in Illinois, there were 91 indicated cases of abuse or neglect from July 2011 through October 2012. Thirty-five counties had rates more than double that average, including Winnebago, where the rate of abuse or neglect is as high as 187 reports per 100 thousand children.
"The numbers don't surprise me at all," said Donna Kasper with Children's home and Aid. She says there are many reasons as to why we've seen such a sharp increase in cases. "The economy for one, the unemployment rate in Illinois is really high, lack of services with all the budget cuts within the state of Illinois, our counseling has been cut, substance abuse has been cut."
Nearby, Stephenson County had between 75 and 125 reports, while all of the other surrounding counties had less than 75 reports.
The reported number of child abuse and neglect cases went down in Chicago, about nine percent, since last year. Cook county saw 69 indicated victims per 10,000 children
Downstate Illinois is particularly affected, with a twenty percent increase in reports last year from ten years ago. Of the 27 percent of allegations that were substantiated by DCFS last year, 71 percent of the 29,044 children who were named victims were from downstate.
Many times, children get caught in disputes between parents, and become victims themselves. But removing a child from a bad situation does not automatically promise a new environment.
"When they finally come in to care, it's difficult to even get the foster homes that we need," said Kasper. "Our recruiting efforts are at an all time low when we need them the most."
When foster care is not needed, there are additional options to turn to than help improve home environments.
"We really put our parents through some rigorous programs as far as parent education, we do parent coaching. They do family counseling, they do individual counseling," said Kasper.
Anyone who suspects a child under 18 is being abused or neglected, is encouraged to call
Katie Zucchi with the Carrie Lynn Children's Center says the higher numbers could mean more neighbors concerned citizens and teachers are making calls of possible cases, rather than simply ignoring signs of abuse.
"So we're seeing a higher increase in those numbers because of the increase of the reporters and the reports being made, " said Zucchi.
DCFS' toll-free hotline at 1-800-252-2873 (1-800-25-ABUSE).
The full Child Abuse and Neglect Statistics Report for October can be found here.
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