April 2, 2015

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – April is Child Abuse Prevention Month nationwide.

Locally, John A. Logan College was the host for a media awareness kickoff event Wednesday afternoon as organized by the Poshard Foundation for Abused and Neglected Children, Department of Children and Family Services and Prevent Child Abuse Illinois.

Guest speakers included Jo Poshard, co-founder of the Poshard Foundation; Elaine Duensing, a Healthy Families Associate with Prevent Child Abuse Illinois; Derek Hobson, Southern Region Administrator for DCFS; and Williamson County State’s Attorney Brandon Zanotti.

Perhaps the most startling statistic released by DCFS regarding child abuse in Illinois is that 94 children died in 2014 as the result of some form of physical abuse at the hands of an adult. Another 2,160 children were reported to have been sexually abused.

“Some have called child abuse a hidden epidemic,” Hobson said. “We lose four-to-seven children every day (nationwide). In Illinois, the numbers are too sobering. We lose one every three days. The good news is that we have the power to stop child abuse.”

Hobson said calling the toll-free hotline (1-800-25-ABUSE) to report suspected abuse is a good start to ending abuse.

“We must speak out on behalf of those children who don’t have a voice,” Jo Poshard said. “Even here in Southern Illinois, this is a critical issue and should not go overlooked.”

Duensing said community events and various children and family activities have been planned nationwide to raise awareness and provide education on child abuse.

“How will you help,” she asked? “All children deserve a great childhood as they are our future. They deserve a nurturing environment, but great childhoods depend on all of us. We all have a role to play.”

After interviewing hundreds of experts in the field, the Center for the Study of Social Policy lists six protective factors on how adults can help keep kids safe. They include the following:

  • Parental Resilience (Help parents and caregivers see their strengths and find solutions to their problems by building on those strengths. Focus on flexibility and help parents learn how to bounce back from difficult situations.
  • Social Connections (Give families a safe place to gather and make friends. Host or sponsor child and family events, such as health fairs, reading nights, and block parties. Encourage your place of worship, school, daycare and workplace to do the same.
  • Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development (Share information with parents and all caregivers on child development and appropriate discipline. Start a lending library of books and toys that will help parents understand ages and stages their child is going through.
  • Concrete Supports in Times of Need (Link families to needed community services in a positive and respectful manner. Offer support to a parent who is under stress through babysitting, making a meal, or maybe just listening.
  • Social and Emotional Competence of Children (Teach children to recognize and express their feelings. Help children learn how to share, cooperate and take turns.
  • Parent-Child Relationship (Provide opportunities for parents and children to spend fun time together. Support home visiting programs in your area such as Healthy Families, Early Head Start, and Parents as Teachers, which provide families with early bonding experiences.

Zanotti said that legally speaking, there are different kinds of abuse and assault.

Predatory criminal sexual assault is a Class X felony punishable by up to 60 years with the Department of Corrections,” he said. “We had six cases filed in Williamson County in 2014. Six doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a number that’s simply unacceptable.

“This kind of behavior will not be tolerated in Williamson County,” Zanotti continued. “We will come down as hard as the law allows on those who commit these crimes.”

 

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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Dr. Steve O’Keefe at 618-985-2828 ext. 8569 or email at steveokeefe@jalc.edu.