Dismal report of safety for at-risk kids

Local News

ILLINOIS (WCIA) — After leaving the public in the dark for eight months, DCFS has released its latest numbers regarding child abuse and neglect hotline.

The rate of abuse reported in the state is on the rise and, what’s worse is, it appears more kids are being re-abused, seriously harmed or even killed.

Data acquired through FOIA has some child advocacy groups concerned. One example: During the past five years, the number of children abused, then found to have been re-abused, has nearly doubled.

DCFS blames the sharp increase on internal investigation changes. 

“Before last August, a second investigation of a family did not count as a “subsequent” case when the prior one was unfounded. To give our investigators more information about prior involvement with a family, we changed our numbering of cases so that any subsequent investigation is counted as such. This was a very important step to protect children, and it is a more accurate way of measuring our data. But the change is not reflectively retroactively in this data report.”- DCFS spokesperson.

The rate of children killed or seriously harmed is also up. In 2013, DCFS received just under 800 reports a month. Now, the rate is closer to 850 a month.

Another noticeable increase is the number of infants exposed to drugs. In all of 2013, there were 582 reports. In the past eight months, there have been 862.

DCFS did provide some context behind those figures, saying the state’s opioid epidemic plays a role.

While some are angered with the department, others say the problem is a community-wide issue. Most agree, but are accusing DCFS of hiding valuable information they need.

The ACLU released a statement following a healthcare hearing:

The Department must be more transparent and provide more basic information and data, not just about healthcare, but other matters relating to child safety and wellbeing as well. Engaging in the eleventh hour ‘data dumps’ prior to a legislative hearing after months of failing to share any information is not a substitute for the open, transparent sharing of data about the way the Department is serving the children in their care. Today’s hearing shows we have miles to go to achieve that reality.

Earlier this week, leaders with some child abuse prevention groups say, an increase in reporting isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They hope it also reflects more people taking action.

Another look at the figures: In 2013, the Central Illinois region had just 117 reports of infants exposed to drugs. That number so far FY18 is roughly 250.

Also, there are more than 7,000 kids found to have been re-abused in the last eight months. For the entire fiscal year 2013, the number was roughly 5,500.

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