Rise seen in downstate abuse reports; Vermilion rate more than double the state average

Rise seen in downstate abuse reports; Vermilion rate more than double the state average

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has released a new report showing a 5.4 percent increase in reports of abused and neglected children across downstate Illinois, including Vermilion County where the rate of abuse and neglect reports is more than double the statewide average.

Vermilion is one of 35 downstate counties with rates more than double the state average, according to DCFS, which announced the data Friday in a news release.

According to the Child Abuse and Neglect Statistical Report, the state's Child Abuse Hotline received 25,348 reports of suspected abuse or neglect involving downstate children from July through October of this year, compared with 24,053 children during the same period last year. According to data compiled by Northwestern University from DCFS and the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 91 indicated cases of abuse or neglect statewide last year for every 10,000 Illinois children.

Dave Clarkin, spokesman for DCFS, said Vermilion has 214 indicated cases of child abuse and neglect per 10,000 people, which is 17th in the state out of 102 counties, while Champaign County is in the middle of the pack with 156 indicated cases per 10,000. Clarkin said he had no insight as to why Vermilion's rate is double the state's.

But, he said, there's an increase in reports of abuse and neglect throughout downstate Illinois, and as a result, the department has announced a reorganization plan to shift resources and increase the number of field investigators downstate. He said the department is working with union officials and lawmakers to implement the plan during the veto session of the state Legislature. He said the goal is to add 138 investigators, whose main purpose is to look into the reports of abuse and neglect and determine if action is necessary. He said the plan calls for the reallocation of $38 million in funding at a time when the department's budget is facing cuts and department officials are working to get funding restored.

Clarkin said two-thirds of child abuse and neglect reports come from mandated reporters, including law enforcement officials, educators, health care personnel and others, so most of the reports are a pretty good indication of communities that have needs.

According to DCFS, the increasing number of abused and neglected children in downstate Illinois follows a decade-long trend. In 2003, the department received reports of suspected abuse of 61,930 kids in downstate Illinois compared with last year's total of 74,102, which represents a 20 percent increase. During the same period, reports of suspected child abuse declined in Cook County by 9 percent. And 27 percent of the allegations were substantiated by DCFS investigators last year, and downstate Illinois accounted for 71 percent of the 29,044 children who were indicated as victims of abuse or neglect.

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