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Report: Downstate child abuse reports rise

Friday, Nov 16, 2012

* From a DCFS press release…

A new report from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services shows a 5.4 percent increase in reports of abused and neglected children across downstate Illinois. 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 to 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. 35 downstate counties showed abuse and neglect rates more than double the statewide average:

    Northern Illinois: Winnebago
    Quad Cities Region: Henderson, Knox, Mercer, Rock Island, Stark, Warren
    Central Illinois: Adams, Clark, Edgar, Fulton, Livingston, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Mason, Morgan, Shelby, Vermilion;
    Southern Illinois: Clay, Crawford, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Marion, Pulaski, Richland, Saline, Union, Wabash, Wayne, White.

Cook County had an abuse and neglect rate of 69 indicated child victims per 10,000 children during the same time period, slightly below the state’s average.

The increasing number of abused and neglected children in downstate Illinois follows a decade long trend. Ten years ago (FY 2003), the department received reports of suspected abuse of 61,930 kids across downstate. Last year’s total (FY 2012) of 74,102 represents a 20 percent increase. During the same period, reports of suspected child abuse declined in Cook County by 9 percent.

* Here’s a startling map from DCFS. Click for a larger version


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Lobo y Olla - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 9:32 am:

    These stats, by the way, do not included “Known unknown” victims. These would be victim’s of child pornography. The victims are “known” in that there is clear photographic evidence of abuse, however, it is not known who they are. The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children in VA, is working with Microsoft on finding new ways to ID these kids. It’s a tsunami.

  2. - wordslinger - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 9:48 am:

    Wow. What’s going on?

  3. - cassandra - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 10:05 am:

    Is DCFS shifting resources downstate to deal with this trend? The McDonald years (the 90’s, early 00’s) saw a shift of resources (staffing, administration, contracts) to Cook County; McDonald turned Cook County from one administrative region to three, with attendant increases in administrators, sub-administrators, and a plethora of other desk jobs. He opened up a number of DCFS offices around Cook County–too many. Some of them have now been closed, probably not enough. Besides, how do office buildings help people. The money should have gone to the kids, not to the porking up of the bureaucracy and plush digs for bureaucrats.

    Child maltreatment is linked to poverty and related stress, and the struggles of the rural and semi-rural Midwest are poorly reported in the media. I spend a lot of time visiting family in Midwestern states and I see an epidemic of substandard housing, inadequate pay, substandard public ed and sketchy medical resources, often a long distance from the patients. The “hollowing out” of the middle part of the US is real in a lot of the rural Midwest, although you wouldn’t necessarily know it from reading the papers; reporters seem obsessed with urban poverty.

    This would be a good issue for struggling Republicans to take on, the Democrats being so focused on urban problems. Are state govt resources really distributed fairly. And when the locus of need shifts, are agencies flexible enough to shift resources to follow the need.

  4. - Cincinnatus - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 10:17 am:

    - wordslinger - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 9:48 am:

    “Wow. What’s going on?”

    Economic uncertainty.

  5. - wordslinger - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 10:21 am:

    Cincy, please try not to hit a partisan talking point for every issue.

    As you read in the release:

    –The increasing number of abused and neglected children in downstate Illinois follows a decade long trend. Ten years ago (FY 2003), the department received reports of suspected abuse of 61,930 kids across downstate. Last year’s total (FY 2012) of 74,102 represents a 20 percent increase. During the same period, reports of suspected child abuse declined in Cook County by 9 percent.–

  6. - cermak_rd - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 10:28 am:

    I guess I’d want to know are we talking abuse or neglect here? I think the Cook County office is more aware of the difference between “neglect” that is simply due to poverty (e.g. bath and clean clothes may be hard to come by for homeless youth) and neglect that is due to being neglectful. Mainly this is due to advocacy for the poor being higher in Cook County.

    The penumbra of the 14th amendment is where the right for parents to rear their own children arises which is why taking away parents rights for simple poverty becomes a constitutional issue.

    One of the surprising things to me is that when I go visit my family in central IL, I am always amazed by how the demographics skew old due to the fact that youth have been leaving for opportunity for so long. So I am surprised you’d see more abuse claims in an area that has less children.

  7. - Eugene - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 10:30 am:

    Not economic uncertainty, economic hardship caused by the destruction of the middle class, which is felt most in smaller cities and rural areas.

  8. - wordslinger - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 10:33 am:

    Eugene, I haven’t noticed any lack of economic hardship in parts of Cook County, yet reports there are down during the same 10-year period.

  9. - Cincinnatus - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 10:36 am:

    Inflation adjusted median income has dropped $2000 in the past 10 years, wordslinger. If you don’t think that causes additional stress on families, especially on the lower income, you are sadly mistaken. So instead of trying to score talking points, why do YOU think things are getting worse?

  10. - Rich Miller - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 10:40 am:

    Cincinnatus, you’re ignoring what Wordslinger is saying. There are, indeed, lots of economic hardships in Cook County. He’s not disputing that. What he is asking is why are the child abuse problems apparently much worse in some Downstate areas?

    You’re getting a bit tiresome today, man. Start reading what people write instead of twisting their words completely out of context.

    Final warning.

  11. - Endangered Moderate Species - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 10:45 am:

    This is just one of many socio-economic outcomes that have negatively changed in the rural/urban midwest since about 1980. Variables that attribute to the categorical declines include; access to new global labor markets, the internet and robotic/computer technology. We are much more like Appalachia than we care to admit.

  12. - Colossus - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 10:47 am:

    When I’ve got some time on my hands, it would be interesting to compare the vote totals by county to this map. I see lots of “family values/think of the children” counties that are awfully red here. I don’t think it’s necessarily (strict definition) related, but an interesting point to keep in mind.

    That said, I’m appalled at this information.

  13. - cermak_rd - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 10:50 am:


    But if that is a median then I would expect it to drop evenly across the IL regions. Or did it? Was it more severe in Southern and Central IL?

    Or does Cook have better programs to help struggling families before they have a reportable problem? Or does simply having access to things like Stroger and its clinics help to alleviate economic stress?

    The counties mentioned as having increases have lost population since the 2000 census. Most likely this does indicate that the economies are bad there. However, they’ve been losing population for longer than that (in Coles, the trend was going on when I was a kid).

    However, Cook also lost population. And with the downing of the CHA complexes, so did Chicago.

  14. - Rich Miller - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 10:50 am:

    Colossus, I don’t think you’re close to being right. There are plenty of Democratic and Republican counties on this map. It’s not ideology.

    Also, I don’t think it has to do exclusively with income, jobs, etc. That’s certainly part of it, but it’s just an excuse. Losing your job doesn’t give you the right to abuse your kids. It shouldn’t be excused away.

  15. - cassandra - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 10:56 am:

    How many of these additional reports were repeaters, children or families who had been reported previously. DCFS must keep track of this info. If a higher percentage of families keep getting reported over and over, this could suggest a quality of response problem not an increase in the number of families mistreating their kids. Quality of response is linked to distribution of resources.

  16. - Endangered Moderate Species - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 11:00 am:

    Another factor to consider is reporting methods in each of the counties. Child abuse has been with us for many years. In the 1950’s our culture chose to ignore child abuse and other societal problems. In 2012 we are much more aware of the possible signs of child abuse. Also, many of the Counties listed have a high rate of elder abuse. We need more data before a solid theory can be established.

  17. - amalia - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 11:03 am:

    well, this is just plain sad. and provides an example of a state government dilemma….how to extend needed services over wide geography. the total numbers are, of course, due to population size, greater in the Cook County area. and the services provided may be greater in Cook County and related local governments. would be interesting to see a menu of services available by county by local governments to assess sources to address the problem.

  18. - papa2009 - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 11:07 am:

    I would hazard a guess that the actual incidents by percentage by county are pretty close. The anomaly being caused by: We can pretty easily count every child in a county. Giving us a baseline. However, in the more densely populated counties some cases are never caught because of apathy and fear. While in the less densely populated, a higher percentage is detected because people are less jaded and are more interested (read snoopy) in what is going on in their small world.

  19. - Anon - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 11:12 am:

    There could be differential rates in actual reporting too.

  20. - Colossus - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 11:14 am:

    Rich, I agree it’s not ideology driving this, I think it’s more cognitive dissonance than anything else. The QC area clearly throws off any neatly partisan arguments, but the Central/SE areas are just blighted here. I don’t have access to it now, but I’d bet you a beer that there were very few contested races at the county level. I pulled all that data together for every county back after the primary, I’ll check up on it when I get back home.

    Just to reiterate: I do not think that this is something that can be blamed on party. But just as with “red” states being net “takers” at the federal level while those same elected officials decry individuals who “live off the work of others”, there is an undeniable element of cognitive dissonance among those who self-identify as conservatives when it comes to the effectiveness of the policies they put forward. At the national level this is pretty obvious, but this is a data point that can drive home the necessity of competent and results-oriented leadership at the local/county level. My home county is as dark as they come on this map and I’m honestly saddened to see it.

    The reason I connect this to the “family values” stalking horse is pretty amorphous at the moment and I don’t want to highjack the conversation here to my squishy ideas. But this is the angle that first popped into my head and it “tastes” right. The conservative emphasis on parents parenting outside of any guidance from the state allows for situations where parenting is conducted in ways that we, as a society, have deemed inappropriate and counterproductive to the goals of a civil society. And when that “small government” attitude is absorbed by a population, it can produce an environment where this sort of thing happens.

    I’m sure that when I win my MacArthur genius grant I will be able to sit around and make this much more coherent. Data like this helps us get a better view of what is going right and what is going wrong in different aspects of society and a holistic approach to incorporating social science data like this into political conversations will benefit everyone, especially the most vulnerable members of society that are currently being left out in the cold.

  21. - wordslinger - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 11:28 am:

    I’m well aware of economic stress in many rural communities, but that process has been going on for decades as population has steadily shifted to the suburban and urban areas.

    Has there been an increased emphasis on reporting or recognition of abuse and neglect in these, perhaps?

    Back in the day, for example, there was no such thing as Shaken-Baby Syndrome. Many infants’ deaths would simply be ruled SIDS — literally, no explainable cause of death.

    Over the years, medical authorities, law enforcement and child welfare advocates collaborated and came to recognize that some of these infants were literally being shaken to death.

  22. - StayFree75 - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 11:34 am:

    These statistics mean nothing to me. DCFS gets it wrong far more often than they get it right. From their own records, 75% of all abuse allegations to DCFS are unfounded, and of the remaining indicated allegations, over 75% of those indicated findings are overturned on administrative appeal. DCFS continues to be easily manipulated by false allegations, and continues to have no effective method for identifying false allegations. How many of those indicated findings have related criminal convictions, or even an arrest? I’ll set the over/under at 50%.

    With DCFS having the largest budget of any state social services agency in the country, GOMB should look to balance the budget with further cuts to DCFS rather than ask the General Assembly to restore a portion of the cuts until wholesale structural and procedural changes are made at DCFS.

  23. - Children first... - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 11:44 am:

    I wonder if the folks downstate, mandated by law to report abuse and neglect, have received increased training in the last year. So they are better able to identify what child abuse and neglect looks like and are more confident to report it. Just a thought.

  24. - cassandra - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 11:53 am:

    Another complicating factor is that well over half of these reports are unfounded, as is true across the country. And a high percentage of appealed founded investigations get overturned. So, report to the hotline doesn’t = maltreatment. It’s not enough to compare total numbers. You also need to compare recividism, that is, what percentage of reports are repeaters, founding rates, and no doubt other things I haven’t thought of, to get a better understanding of the disparities. In some communities, for example, professionals and family members may report more marginal situations in order to access DCFS services for a kid, even if they are pretty sure the case will ultimately be unfounded. This speaks to the general issue of resources or lack thereof and access to same. Not to mention the importance of
    digging into the data.

  25. - walkinfool - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 12:24 pm:

    I assume that, as in other abuse areas, much is occuring that is not being reported. My first question is always: has the reporting been improving in these geographies?

    Word’s question “What is going on?” resounds.

  26. - Lobo Y Olla - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 1:02 pm:

    To harp on my previous point, you cannot exclude the rise of the internet in the increase of abuse cases. From the recent prosecution of the man who taped up his child and posted the image on FB to the upper class white males who engage in child pornography simply because they falsely believe that the internet offers anonymity. The majority of child pornography investigations are of the online variety. The days of the wierdo with a bag full of polaroids are over. Trying to keep this comment in line with the Rich’s post, I believe that incresing interconnectivity and access to information is leading the uptick. A lot of the abuse was already there…. they are just better at finding it now. To lay this at the feet of poverty or economic hardship is a red herring. A quick digital flip through the mug shots oon the Trib’s website shows that abuse is totally and completely equal opportunity. Mel Reynolds, R. Kelly, priests, teachers, white university coaches, dentists, powerful civil attorneys….money is not the issue.

  27. - INDEPENDENT - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 1:29 pm:

    I think this is a result of bad ecomony, and other human service cuts that have been occuring for years. Cuts to mental health services, youth services, domestic violence services and others. The children are the canaries in the coal mine.

  28. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 1:31 pm:

    Without more data than we have here, I am reluctant to sound the alarm.
    Perhaps someone who knows more about these matters could remind us if any new categories of mandated reporters were added in the last ten years.
    Further, I harbor a healthy skepticism about anything coming out of this agency. “Oops, the intern messed up the spreadsheet.”
    Finally, as others have noted, and as we have seen in other areas in the past (crime statistics going bonkers nationally because states make wingnut changes in the definition of certain crimes) this could well be a reporting anomaly.

  29. - steve schnorf - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 1:54 pm:

    DCFS has the largest budget of any state social service agency in the country?

  30. - Cincinnatus - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 2:11 pm:


    Look at the median incomes across the state. The lowest incomes are in those areas where the highest incidence of reportings are. Those people are effected by the decreasing incomes on a disproportionate basis, and their poorer areas cannot absorb some of the problems at like a richer Chicago can.

  31. - Cincinnatus - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 2:20 pm:

    - Rich Miller - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 10:50 am:

    Colossus, I don’t think you’re close to being right. There are plenty of Democratic and Republican counties on this map. It’s not ideology.

    “That’s certainly part of it, but it’s just an excuse. Losing your job doesn’t give you the right to abuse your kids. It shouldn’t be excused away.”

    Amen, nothing excuses abuse. Abuse has been shown to be related to the parents ability to handle stress, and the top external reason for stress in modern families is now related to jobs. Another factor is the decline of the two parent family (which is also related to family incomes).

  32. - Cincinnatus - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 2:22 pm:

    - wordslinger - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 11:28 am:

    “Has there been an increased emphasis on reporting or recognition of abuse and neglect in these, perhaps?”

    This is a tremendous point. In the past few years, reporting of possible abuse is a requirement of certified teachers. There are a lot more people looking for these problems than a generation ago.

  33. - carbaby - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 2:58 pm:

    I actually cite the reason for the increase is that there has been a significant increase in the calls to the Hotline that are accepted for Investigation. They have been accepting cases for investigation since January 2012 that would never have been taken previously, even the month prior of December 2011. This is where the marked shift has been. But the general population does not know the inner workings of how this works.
    Historically, the way to reduce the number of children in foster care was to close the front door at the same time you were moving large numbers of children to permanency. This was the shift that occurred in 1998 as part of the Permanency Initiative. In the past, at times of budgetary issues, the more stringent the application of the criteria was applied. When things relaxed, the number of calls accepted for investigation, corresponded.
    That has not been the case since January 2012. The floodgates have been opened. My case in point, is for the first time in my 18 year career, the hotline called us to take a report- we did not call them.
    This has also put an increased strain on the DCP workers’ caseloads which are already high- especially downstate and Rockford. Perhaps the motivation was to justify the additional hiring of DCP workers by demonstrating the high number of investigations and high caseloads- despite that they were already understaffed in those regions. Please remember the Tribune article about just that I believe it was in February 2012.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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