Locally the Child Advocacy Center deals with child abuse and neglect cases. (Photo By B Corbin/WJBC)
By Paul Morello
BLOOMINGTON - A new Illinois Department of Children and Family Services report shows there's been a 5.4 percent increase in reports of abused and neglected children in Central and Southern Illinois compared to last year.
In FY 2012 in McLean County, there were 141 reports of abused or neglected children per 10,000, according to spokesman Dave Clarkin. In Livingston County, there were 187 cases per 10,000.
The statewide average is 91 cases per 10,000 children.
"Looking back at especially last year's numbers and the trend over the last ten years where cases have been closed and we've had a final finding of abuse or unfounded it's clear to see there's an upward trend in the numbers," he said.
Since FY 2003, DCFS has seen a 20 percent increase in abuse and neglect reports, according to Clarkin.
"These reports come from trained professionals," Clarkin said. " Who understand the difference between abuse and neglect, and what's not abuse and neglect, so we find these reports to be pretty reliable."
Regional vice president of Children's Home + Aid, Lisa Pieper, said despite an increase in reported abuse, the number of cases of DCFS actually removing children from homes locally has decreased.
"What that tells me is I'm worried about the kids in the middle there. Those calls that are going to the hotline, but they're not being removed," she said.
The data was compiled by DCFS and Northwestern University.
Residents can call the Illinois DCFS hotline to report abuse at (800) 252-2873. Local services are available through the McLean County Child Advocacy Center.
McLean County State's Attorney Jason Chambers said the uptick in reports might not necessarily indicate an actual increase in abuse.
"You could make the argument that in McLean County people know something will be done, so people are more inclined to call," he said. "Whereas if people think they live in a region where they can call but nothing's going to be done, they start thinking, 'Why bother calling?'"
Paul Morello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.